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Nashville's Municipal Consultant Dax Norton On Tourist Boom During Pandemic

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Unknown Speaker
It is the fourth Wednesday of the month. I'm with Nashville municipal consultant, DAX Norton. Hello, and Happy New Year to you, and really appreciate you being on the show.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah, good to be here and Happy New Year 2021.

Unknown Speaker
You know, you've been with us now a full year. So we do appreciate you doing this and keeping on and in 2021, I'm gonna do something a little different and start the show, we have an email question from Anne, who lives in Brown County. And her email was, who is DAX Norton? Who is this guy who hired you? What is your salary? Just who are you? So she probably started hearing about you through this show and wants to know more about you and I, we can begin by saying you're not an elected official.

Unknown Speaker
I'm not an elected official. I don't get paid a salary from the town. So the town contracted with my company. Ms. consultants, we started a program for communities that were either in the transition of town management and didn't have one, what we've kind of waiting to see what they would do, it's really kind of a strategic direction type consulting role, which is to help elected bodies such as a town council, take them through a journey of strategic direction and essentially write an administrative strategic plan. So that when they do or when they did bring on a town town manager again, or for the first time ever, that they would be readily prepared to hand that person, this guidebook that they created for the future moving forward of Nashville, so I do some things for the Council, which is very town manager, ask some administrative work, some policy work, some resolution work. It's it's, it's that you know that they're not paying me benefits. My company pays benefits. So that's where this all began. And almost, I guess, two years later, I guess now coming up on that. I think it's

Unknown Speaker
really well. And you have history of this area, too. You're not in from Chicago or something like that.

Unknown Speaker
Not my father has been southern Indiana he was he's in Florida Napa was in third Indiana for quite some time, lived in Morgantown for a while lived on Freeman's ridge. Lane and Brown County. My, my former stepmother. She's known in Nashville and Brown County. And, you know, we used to roam the streets as kids. So my brother and myself, so no one wasn't new to the area, or I knew the area of quite well.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah. She also had a question about possibly selling the Brown County Music Center, kind of segues into what's been happening this past week. Now, this question came a month ago. So this is before this, the cares act allocation came into effect, Brown County, is it those town council approved that about 230 $900,000 to help with the Brown County Music Center? Is that going to be enough to keep it up and running for a while?

Unknown Speaker
So that was the county council now. These expenditure is all in the jurisdiction of the county

Unknown Speaker
with multiple different funding sources, obviously, they weren't self sustainable, but endemic came in and from what I've been told, yes, it seems like the banks are working with the music center now to keep it keep it alive and afloat and sustained through this period until they can start holding live shows again. So but that's all County, county government, county council funding, county council decisions at this point, not nothing to do with the town council.

Unknown Speaker
Sure. In terms of your from your side, and in Nashville, is this a good use of the cares act money, I guess, for those who live there? And and, and are wondering, you know, how does this benefit them? Is this a good use of that money?

Unknown Speaker
Well, I don't think that, from what I've been told, and I could be wrong, that actually cares that money didn't end up going there. I'll double check on that, Joe. And I think that something was worked out. That didn't have to happen, or at least not nearly that amount. I think that because the people are working with the Music Center, but that was not necessary. So that's an that's a question. I'm not sure about the dollar figure or if it actually ended up completely happening that way anyway.

Unknown Speaker
Well, the good news is that cases going down statewide Brown County positivity rate is going down. Still high about 18%. How was from what you've heard Brown County able to manage this past fall season, which is the big tourist boom for that area, kind of looking back now here it is in January. Did it work out? Okay.

Unknown Speaker
Well, from what we've been told, and a good indicator of this is the food and beverage tax distribution to the town. It didn't really budge much in 2020. So people were invited in this convention, Visitors Bureau did a very good job of educating the chamber, Community Foundation, town council, educating folks to come in, it seemed to go fairly well, with distancing and mask use. Obviously, there was that spike for everybody. It seemed, after Thanksgiving, it seemed like it just went up starting in mid October. And just onto today, it wasn't just a Brown County thing it was everybody got the new spike. So it seems that the fall season in Brown County national went, as well as could be expected, given the circumstances, and everybody kind of pitched in to make it as good as it could possibly be.

Unknown Speaker
We were down there a couple months ago, his store owner said that the sales were about the same, if not better than I guess. 2019. And I know like you just said, You've been encouraging people to head there to shop. Do you know if that level of business was the same? Across town?

Unknown Speaker
Yeah, I think we've heard differing opinions on some people know, some people, yes. Some restaurants know, some restaurants. You know? Yes. So I think it just depends on, you know, maybe the product or the size of the store, if they were gonna, if the owner is opened at all, you know, didn't want to deal with possibly getting ill, which is completely understandable. But it seems that from what people have said, things went fairly well. And you know, the town got the CDBG money from okra to assist businesses with grants. And the town officials did a very good job distributing that said the county county got same money and that those officials did a good job in distributing. So $500,000 was pretty easy to do. Local businesses. So it seems like the effort of CO ad and cooperative you know, efforts from all the groups, really good leadership. Got Brown County, Nashville through this so far, are their pains. Yes, there are definitely people seeing some pain economically, socially, physically. And those those will have to be dealt with. And people are talking about working on plans to do that now, kind of started the movement forward type conversations.

Unknown Speaker
No, no issues with an enforcement of masks or social distancing.

Unknown Speaker
there didn't seem to be a lot of it. I think there were some complaints that were given a health department or possibly our police department, but it seemed to be as fairly minimal.

Unknown Speaker
You know, some new reports that really popped out at me these past couple of weeks, the Brown County Health, living communities to about 89 infected residents, 20 deaths. You know, the sad reality of how it's been though, and long term care facilities all over, but that has to be even more for a smaller community like they're in Nashville.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah, it impacts heavily, right. Even one single death there. We know, you know, people know who that is. And that's, that's a very intimate thing in accounting, some small town so small, so it all matters and so we want to still be vigilant and do our due diligence to keep people safe and healthy. While at the same time, you know, obviously living in you know, economics is important making money and, and recreating, but we must first off, we want to keep our fellow citizens healthy.

Unknown Speaker
I don't know if you have this information. There have been reports with jails to do you know, the Count COVID counter situation in the jails there that just today nearly half of Bartholomew county jail inmates have COVID we're kind of following up with that, but didn't know if this was the same issue there.

Unknown Speaker
No, I haven't heard anything about the Jalen Brown County.

Unknown Speaker
Well, much of the attention turned to vaccine. Right now. It's statewide 70 and up first responders medical workers can sign up our shot dot i n.gov or you can call 211 to register for the vaccination. Can you give us maybe a little bit of a rundown if you heard of what is the procedure like there in Brown County for vaccinations.

Unknown Speaker
I have not. I know the last week I talked to health department officials seems things are going fairly well. haven't heard any complaints? You know, I don't know if somebody in my position would get that anyway. I don't know if the town government would get that. But it seems, you know, they're being given. And it seemed like there's many complaints with it. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker
Well, looking ahead now as we begin a new year, I know you mentioned before some new Commission's are starting to form there's a lot of forward thought happening. Can you just tell us a little bit because up to date on the next steps there for Brown County, and Nashville?

Unknown Speaker
Yeah. So you know, we're starting to talk about movement forward, looking at the comprehensive plan, updating it for the 30 year outlook, talking about, you know, a couple of new conditions, human human human relations is one that's been ongoing for some time, there's a now a citizens action committee that's been set up to talk about how does the county and the town move that idea forward, revitalizing the efforts of the main street group, which are well known. They're well known group, led well by by Brenda young, and others in the community, revitalizing that group and giving it some more energy and some the ability to get grants. So it's really kind of in this stage of strategy I think of we have we made it to 21. And now it's time to talk about all these ideas of, you know, growing from within, continuing to help each other continuing to maintain the historical integrity of the community, historic preservation may come up again, something that's important, economic stability will come up again, as potential buildings may be sold or are for sale. I know there are a couple now. So those are utility infrastructure. Planning, that's in the works, partnerships with the State Park. That's kind of where we are right now in the beginning of 2021, is really starting to dive into good policy creation for the future of Nashville. I work for the council, but there's also multiple groups talking about the future of the county and Nashville as one. So it's kind of exciting right now.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah. And do I remember was the courthouse getting an upgrade? I getting an upgrade and commission approving that TIF area to

Unknown Speaker
RDC ardc was in the process? Yes. So the RDC is in the process of expanding the TIF and that's a that's a that's a good one. That's that's a very important thing right now. So all right. Well,

Unknown Speaker
that was all I had. Was there any other announcements or things you'd like to, to give us an update on?

Unknown Speaker
Nothing at this time I was trying to find for you where the where the vaccinations were going to be held for it looks like the health department is the place to go. Okay. And if anybody has any questions I'd call Brown County Health Department. Okay. All right. No, thanks for having me. And it's good to see you in the new year.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah, same here. And we'll hopefully meet again in February.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah, sounds good. Thanks. Hi.

Unknown Speaker
Thank you very much.
Nashville Municipal Consultant Dax Norton

Nashville's Municipal Consultant Dax Norton (Zoom)

Dax Norton talks about his company's contract with the town of Nashville, the Brown County Music Center, COVID cases and forward thinking in the new year.

On this week’s installment of Ask The Mayor, Nashville's Norton addresses these issues and more. Listen to the full conversation with Indiana Newsdesk anchor Joe Hren by clicking on the play button above, or read some of the questions and answers below. A portion of this segment airs 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. Wednesday on WFIU.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Hren: I wanted to start the show with an email question from Ann from Brown County. She would like to ask Dax Norton of Brown County, who hired you? What is your salary? And just who are you? We should begin that you’re not an elected official.

Norton: I don't get paid a salary from the town. So, the town contracted with my company, MS Consultants. We started a program for communities that were either in the transition of town management and didn't have one, what we've kind of waiting to see what they would do. It's really kind of a strategic direction type consulting role, which is to help elected bodies, such as a town council, take them through a journey of strategic direction and essentially write an administrative strategic plan.

So that when they did bring on a town manager again, or for the first time ever, that they would be readily prepared to hand that person, this guidebook that they created for the future moving forward of Nashville. So I do some things for the council, some administrative work, some policy work, some resolution work. They're not paying me benefits. My company pays benefits. So that's where this all began. And almost, I guess, two years later, it's gone really well.

Brown County Music Center

Hren: She also asked whether the Brown County Music Center should be sold, she did ask this a month ago, but still relates today, especially after learning the center will receive half of the county's CARES Act allocation.

Norton: So that was the county council now. These expenditures are all in the jurisdiction of the county, with multiple different funding sources. Obviously, they weren't self-sustainable, but the pandemic came in and from what I've been told, yes, it seems like the banks are working with the music center now to keep it alive and afloat and sustained through this period until they can start holding live shows again. But that's all county government, county council funding, county council decisions at this point, not the town council.

READ MORE: Fall Tourists Pack Shops In Brown County Despite Rise In Virus Cases

Hren: The good news is that cases are going down statewide, Brown County positivity rate is going down. Still high about 18%. From what you've heard, how did Nashville manage this past fall season, which is the big tourist boom, looking back now.

Norton: From what we've been told, and a good indicator of this is the food and beverage tax distribution to the town. It didn't really budge much in 2020. So people were invited in, the Convention and Visitors Bureau did a very good job of educating the Chamber, Community Foundation, Town Council, educating folks to come in, it seemed to go fairly well, with distancing and mask use.

Obviously, there was that spike for everybody, it seemed, after Thanksgiving, it seemed like it just went up starting in mid October. It wasn't just a Brown County thing, it was everybody got the new spike. So it seems that the fall season in Brown County, Nashville went as well as could be expected given the circumstances, and everybody kind of pitched in to make it as good as it could possibly be.

Hren: Well, looking ahead now as we begin a new year, I know you mentioned before some new commission's are starting to form — there's a lot of forward thought happening. Can you update us a bit?

Norton:  We're starting to talk about movement forward, looking at the comprehensive plan, updating it for the 30 year outlook, talking about a couple of new commissions, human relations is one that's been ongoing for some time, there's now a citizens action committee that's been set up to talk about how does the county and the town move that idea forward, revitalizing the efforts of the main street group. They're a well known group, led well by Brenda Young and others in the community, revitalizing that group and giving it some more energy and the ability to get grants.

So, it's really kind of in this stage of strategy, I think, of we have made it to 2021, and now it's time to talk about all these ideas of growing from within, continuing to help each other, continuing to maintain the historical integrity of the community. Historic preservation may come up again, something that's important, economic stability will come up again, as potential buildings may be sold or are for sale. I work for the council, but there's also multiple groups talking about the future of the county and Nashville as one. So it's kind of exciting right now.

For the latest news and resources about COVID-19, bookmark our Coronavirus In Indiana page here.

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