Free seats stayed empty at Osceola's State of the County event

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OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. - The main message at Tuesday's State of the County event was that Osceola County is back in business.

But the way the county advertised the event and handled its progress report has some residents raising questions.

Kathy Sperling with the Osceola County Business and Taxpayers Association said it would have been nice for residents to be able to go.

The event was held in the middle of the day at the county's new convention center at Champion's Gate. The event offered corporate sponsorships starting at $1,000 and going up to $5,000. A reserved table for 10 cost $540.

Individual tickets were $30.

A county spokesman said 60 seats were set aside for anyone who wanted to come and just listen for free, but all of the tables stayed empty.

Critics said that's because ads in a local paper made no mention of free tickets, and they said emails about the event didn't either.

"The other day, I got one 'Oh, there's still time to get your ticket’ (email) but there was never a mention of a free ticket," Sperling said.

Claire Dempster with the Osceola County Business and Taxpayers Association said she wants to know where the money is going.

Commission Chairman Frank Attkisson said any money made at the event will go into the county's economic development fund.

"If somebody has heartburn, wait till they get the next job we're going to create for them. They're probably going to complain less," Attkisson said.

A county spokesman said final numbers aren't in but it looks like the county broke even after covering the cost of the luncheon.

He also said Osceola County is not the first to accept sponsorships for events like the State of the County.