Dillard: Time to sell city radio station
Blames local newspaper for project’s failure
BY ANGELA GARY
Jefferson is trying to sell its low-power radio station after ad sales have not been what recreation director Ben Dillard promised when he presented the proposal to the city council last spring.
Dillard suggested at Monday night’s city council meeting that the radio station be sold. He also blamed the lack of success of the city-operated station on negative coverage in The Jackson Herald.
“The negative publicity in the local newspaper has made it impossible to sell ads because businesses do not want their names to be published along with these demeaning articles,” Dillard said. “We’ve had plenty of support, but the negative angle hurts tremendously.”
From July through December, Radio Jefferson only generated $9,190 in income, but had expenses of $151,400. In December, the station had no income and expenses of $6,050.
Dillard said he still believes a radio station is needed in Jefferson.
“We started Radio Jefferson to provide a valuable community service and to raise money for the recreation department,” he said. “After six months of broadcasting, we have not been able to generate enough ad sales to create a profit. Any business takes time and this idea is still a great one for the community. But because of the circumstances… I’ve talked with (city manager) John (Ward) about implementing an exit strategy. I don’t want the station to continue to be a distraction as it has for the past six months.”
Dillard also addressed coverage in the local paper about his role with the radio station.
“I’ve been called a liar and a dummy and a con man, a crook and an idiot by the local newspaper,” he said. “I’m not going to address any of that slander. I will say that as far as the radio station, every “I” was dotted and every “T” was crossed. We operate with the same professionalism and stewardship that was expected of us… I still believe it is something the community needs and we will find someone. I am going to continue to work 80-hours a week with the same diligence you hired me to do.”
Dillard also said he has worked “tirelessly” for the recreation department.
“I told John when he hired me not to do so if he just wanted someone to babysit the baseball fields,” he said. “I worked tirelessly in Jefferson the past two and a half years to make the recreation department the best in the state of Georgia, and I think we have done that.”
Dillard said other problems with the radio station include personnel issues and the terrain in Jefferson.
“We’ve had several personnel issues that have hurt us,” he said. “We (also) found the terrain in Jefferson is much different than in Sandy Springs. This is not something we could have known before we put the antennas up. While this can be corrected, it will take more money.”
Dillard said he has already met with several people who are interested in buying the station.
“I feel the best option is for us to try and sell the station to a private individual,” he said. “I’ve had discussions with several people who are interested. If we get an offer, I will relay that back to the council. We also have the option to liquidate the equipment. However, we do not have any operation cost at this time…My suggestion is that you allow me to continue to work to find a qualified buyer.”
Dillard said a private owner would be about to operate the radio station without the “publicity and scrutiny” that the city has had and will be able to “make it work.”
COUNCIL PRAISES DILLARD
The mayor and several council members praised Dillard for his effort with the radio station.
“I want to thank you for thinking outside the box,” Mayor Jim Joiner said. “We all thought it was a great idea… I still think it was a great idea… You need to be commended for the effort… There is no doubt about it, Jefferson has the best recreation department in the state.”
Councilman David Varnedoe said: “I think the radio station was a great idea. The timing may have been bad… Don’t beat yourself up about it.”
Ward pointed out that the majority of the growth in the recreation department budget has been because of the increase in the department and not the radio station.
CITIZEN BLASTS BACK-PATTING
During the public comment portion of the meeting, one citizen addressed the council’s handling of the radio station.
“I can’t stand this pat each other on the back and sweep it under the carpet on the radio,” Rock Feeman said. “Dollars were spent. We don’t know if we are going to recover them or not.”
Feeman also pointed out that the radio update was not on the council’s agenda for the night.
“This wasn’t on the agenda tonight,” he said. “You hid it in activity report. It needs to be on the agenda until this project is closed.”
Feeman also said he sees a problem with “project management” in the city.
“I see a lack of discipline in project management practices in the city,” he said. “I see a lack of project management. An idea was generated…What we need is that once an idea is generate, there is planning and analysis… In project management, there is a thing called ‘lessons learned.’ This is a lesson learned about how to run special projects.”