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BOWLING GREEN—A free new way to promote businesses and even the town came to the attention of the Bowling Green Town Council on Thursday night.
Kyle Anderson, who recently opened Anderson’s General Store at 101 North Main St., Bowling Green, said he has teamed up with American Express for branding and marketing his store for free. He said the Town of Bowling Green could also market itself through the Shop Small program of American Express.
“Shop Small is a movement to celebrate small businesses every day and to help communities thrive,” according to the American Express website. “Small Business Saturday is a day dedicated to supporting small businesses across the country. Created by American Express in 2010, this day is celebrated every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.”
The Shop Small program creates free personalized digital banners, downloadable signage and social posts, Anderson told the council. “I recently saw my store advertised in the Washington Post,” he added while standing before the council.
The main requirement is that the business must accept American Express cards from customers.
“We don’t have to pay a dime—just take American Express,” Anderson told the council. Shop Small’s promotion of business is not limited to retail outlets. “You can be an insurance company, drive a tow truck or have a real estate business,” he noted.
Council members expressed an interest in using the marketing tool and asked Anderson to help the town get started in signing up for Shop Small, and he agreed to help.
In other business, the council looked at the possible future purchase of another radar speed sign to replace the town’s non-functioning radar sign.
Police Chief Steven Hoskins said the town obtained its current radar sign through a grant. He tried to call the manufacturer, only to learn the company is no longer in business. He was also unable to find a company that would work on the radar sign.
Hoskins presented the council with literature that listed new radar speed signs ranging from a $4,194 sign on a hand-pushed dolly to a $10,249 version that is mounted to a trailer that can be towed around. He pointed out a $6,549 sign on a trailer that is similar to the town’s current one.
“I recommend staying away from the portable ones,” such as the hand-pushed dolly, because they might get stolen, Hoskins said.
Hoskins said an unnamed council member had asked him to get prices on new radar speed signs. In recent weeks, town residents have complained to councilors about tractor trailers speeding through town. The police chief said the signs help curtail speeding.
Glen McDearmon, vice mayor, asked Hoskins about potential grants for another radar sign, and the chief said, “Grants have dried up. That’s not an option.”
Councilor Jason Satterwhite said the town probably has no money in the budget for a new radar sign this year anyway and would have to budget for a sign next year.
In other business, the council tackled the sensitive issue of charging some groups to use the Town Hall and allowing others to use it for free, a discussion initiated by Town Manager Stephen Manster.
Mayor David Storke said the town should stop allowing free use of the Town Hall. “But there might be a time where we would donate the money back to a group,” he said. “But that is a muddy road.”
In October, the town charged the Caroline County Recovery Community Program $500 for use of Town Hall, but did not charge the Caroline Care Group Inc. or the Caroline Alliance Against Violence.
He noted that the town staff has told certain groups they would have to pay and then those groups have gone directly to council members and asked for free use.
If the group is directly involved in improving the town, then perhaps that group could get free use, councilor Mark Bissoon suggested.
Gray areas are involved in the process, the mayor said, and then mentioned Friends of the Caroline Library. That group uses Town Hall for “their biggest fundraiser of the year,” he said.
The mayor asked Andrea Erard, town attorney, “Is giving money back to a group legally defensible?” She said yes.
Councilor Daniel Webb suggested the town set a limit of two to three free events a year and then the rest of the groups would have to pay to use the building.
Satterwhite suggested the town at least recover its cost from a charity group’s use of the building, such as electricity and clean up of the building.
Storke suggested they continue the discussion at the next meeting.
McDearmon made a motion to allow the Caroline County Sheriff’s Office free use of the building for its Christmas party in December, and the motion passed unanimously.