The Board of Mayor and Aldermen last week approved two resolutions governing the “Move to Kingsport” bus — one establishing advertising rates for the bus and another outlining rental rates.
Kingsport purchased the 24-passenger bus earlier this year for $48,000 and uses it in connection with the “Move to Kingsport” campaign. Once a month the city provides tours for people who recently moved to Kingsport, with stops at the Fort Henry Mall, Bays Mountain and the Renaissance Center.
Kingsport also uses the bus when a group of city officials needs to go out of town or tour a site.
According to the resolution, people will now be able to rent the bus for $150 for the first two hours and $100 per hour afterward. Nonprofit organizations and the hotel/motel charter rate is $125 for the first two hours and $80 per hour afterward.
“There are companies within the Tri-Cities that offer charter service. We all know that. We’re not looking to compete with them,” said Development Services Manager Chris McCartt. “We have one bus. These folks have limo service and fleets with multiple vehicles. We have a bus, and we’ve offered charter service in the past. This is just another opportunity for us to do that again.”
Alderman Pat Shull voted for the resolution but said he had some reservations about it.
“This seems to be a service that is ideally suited for the private sector to meet. However, I’m prepared to support it ... but I think we need to relook at it periodically,” Shull said.
The second resolution established advertising rates for the 24-passenger bus. The rates are for advertisements to be displayed for six months and are as follows: $7,000 a side, $4,000 for the back panel, and $15,000 for the entire bus.
The bus has recently been wrapped with a vinyl advertising wrap displaying images of MeadowView Conference Resort and Convention Center and Cattails Golf Course. McCartt said the wrap went on before the resolution was approved, but the center has paid the $15,000 ad rate.
MeadowView received about $240,000 in operating subsidy from Kingsport last year and just over $2.5 million from the regional sales tax fund for debt service and operations.
Since the center has the first contract, the soonest anyone else would be able to advertise on the bus would be July, McCartt said. The maximum number of companies that would be allowed to advertise in a year, under the guidelines, would be six.
Plus, the company has to purchase its own wrap from a sign company, to the tune of around $4,000 for the entire bus.
“The wrap is very high quality, very durable, and it’s a quality piece of advertising. It will last a long time and cause no damage to the vehicle,” McCartt said.
The reason given for allowing advertising on the bus (and for the rental) is because not a week goes by that someone doesn’t call the city inquiring about both.
“We’re trying to meet some of the demands we’re hearing from within the community,” McCartt said, adding that staff would be returning to the BMA with a policy on the types of advertising to be allowed on the bus.
Last year Kingsport investigated the possibility of allowing advertising on the six minibuses and three larger buses operated by the Kingsport Area Transit System. However, the BMA shot down the proposal due to the little revenue the service would generate and the hassle of providing the service.
Under that proposal, maximum amount of revenue generated would have been $20,700, but because of how KATS is funded — partially with funds from the federal and state government — Kingsport would only have received around $5,000 of that $20,700.