Athens-Clarke County is cutting short its contract with a local firm that sells advertising on Athens Transit buses because the program is making less money than officials expected.Is the county policy too cautious? Isn't some money better than none? This is the first time this strategy has been attempted with Athens Transit, so it's to be expected that there might be some hurdles, especially in the current economic conditions.
The Athens-Clarke Commission is likely to vote tonight to opt out of a two-year contract with The Summit Agency on June 30, after just one year.
The deal guarantees the county at least $75,000 per year in revenue, with the county and the agency splitting anything over that amount. After seven months, the agency has sold only $33,000 worth of ads, Athens Transit Director Butch McDuffie said.
The economy and a restrictive policy on what types of ads Athens Transit will accept are responsible for the poor sales, McDuffie said.
The county does not accept alcohol-related, sexual, political or religious advertising.
Commissioners adopted the policy on Athens-Clarke Attorney Bill Berryman's recommendation to head off potential lawsuits if they turned down a controversial ad to avoid the appearance that the government is endorsing a religious or political message.
When the county's contract with The Summit Agency ends June 30, the commission could opt to stop selling ads, hire another agency to sell them or sell them in-house. [Commissioner Kelly] Girtz said he favors continuing to sell ads.
Plenty of transit systems successfully utilize bus ads to supplement their operating budgets. We hope the commission and Athens Transit can address the challenges and continue exploring this needed funding opportunity.
Let the Commission know your thoughts on the matter.