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Cities, loosen that grip



As you enjoy Colorama this week, be thankful for the place where much of it comes together — North Dam Park and Event Center — and think about the sand dunes that would replace it if ceases to exist, which it could.

This community asset is just one of the potential casualties of irrational stinginess on the part of some city council members who think the only funds they currently spend on the park just shouldn’t be spent that way.

A very large cache of those funds, from hotel/motel taxes that are supposed to support tourism, sit doing nothing, instead of spurring economic development.

The money is collected under a state law intended to aide local communities in tourism industry development. It’s not intended to keep a municipality’s bank account full.

Some would argue, correctly, that using those funds to support North Dam Park, as the community decided to do in the past, is not the best use of those funds. It may not be, but it is a use that addresses one current need.

There are also other urgent needs for which a little more of the $400,000-plus in idle hotel/motel funds could be put to use. The chamber of commerce wants more for a campaign to tout the new laser light show on Grand Coulee Dam, to debut at the end of the month. Media buys — fragile things that dry up and blow away as soon as the next buyer comes along to take your spots — are lined up and waiting to help draw people to local stores, motels and restaurants right now, even while some city council people contemplate whether the city should part with the money specifically collected for that purpose.

Both of these issues are cheap and immediately fundable. The chamber needs a total of $15,000 from the three towns that collect the tax. The Coulee Area Park and Recreation District is at least $9,000 short in funds to keep North Dam Park open for the full season because Coulee Dam doesn’t think its businesses benefit from the park’s existence.

Better check that logic this weekend. It’s not only about money, it’s jobs. It’s about community assets waiting to shrivel in a funding drought. It’s about what happens when an opportunity to do something positive comes along, and you wonder if you should loosen your habitual grip in order to reach out and grasp the chance to prosper.

Scott Hunter

editor and publisher

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