The largest producer of hotel/motel taxes in the area proposed changes to the way the funds are used at a meeting of some 20 community people Monday.
Pat Welton, managing partner of Sunbanks Lake Resort, stated that the three local municipalities that collect the tax are currently “hoarding” the money and releasing it bit by bit. The fourth local community, Elmer City, doesn’t have any campgrounds or motels within its borders.
Sunbanks, located inside Electric City’s boundaries, accounts for about $60,000 a year of the funds collected from the city’s campground and innkeepers.
Welton asked that the city councils of Coulee Dam, Grand Coulee and Electric City get together and consider a plan that would put all the money into one fund with a committee to make decisions on how it would be used.
The hotel/motel tax issue was an agenda item during a meeting at the Bureau of Reclamation offices on how to encourage area progress.
Welton said the committee could be made up of a person from each city and one from the chamber of commerce, making a five-member voting tourist board. The board would receive ideas from the various towns and make recommendations on how the money was to be spent.
He suggested that an outside marketing firm, with no local ties, be hired to put any plan into action.
The money is collected from a 2-percent tax on lodging customers in the area and then is matched by the same amount from the state. State law earmarks the money for support of tourism.
But the towns collecting the money have been reluctant to release it except in small amounts, Welton said.
Currently, to get hotel/motel funds from the cities, parties must go before each council separately. Early this year, the combined totals of the hotel/motel funds held in reserves of the three towns totaled nearly a half million dollars.
Welton said a cross-community tourism board would allow the area to be promoted with a stronger and more consistent message, and could reach a larger audience.
Welton asked that the towns who get the funds get their councils together, along with Elmer City’s and establish a tourism committee.
Coulee Dam Mayor Quincy Snow said, “We need the tourism committee.”