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Tussle for tourism funds stirs debate at council

 


Coulee Dam’s town council was slow to convince last week that the town should reach down in its hotel/motel money reserves and provide the chamber of commerce and the Coulee Area Park and Recreation District with more funds.

Grand Coulee Dam Chamber of Commerce officials, and Rec Commissioner Phil Hansen, appeared before the council May 14, each asking for more money.

The chamber was asking for $6,000 as Coulee Dam’s portion of a media campaign cost to try to lure visitors from western Washington to the new Laser Light Show.

Hansen was asking for $9,000 to help maintain the cost of keeping North Dam Park in shape for potential visitors to the area.

While neither got a “no,” it was tough sledding for both causes.

The chamber had asked each of the three municipalities that collect hotel/motel taxes to pony up $6,000 to fund a media buy in the Seattle area to promote the new Laser Light Show. Grand Coulee was first to step forward with $6,000 and Electric City was quick to follow with $9,000. Coulee Dam had proposed that the chamber take $4,000 from what it had given to support the July 4 events, plus another $2,000 from the $10,000 provided for the Ridge Riders, to make up the $6,000.

Chamber Executive Director Peggy Nevsimal pointed out that funds that had been received earlier from Coulee Dam already had either been spent or were earmarked for events. It (the chamber) was asking for additional monies.

By council resolution, the town has a formula for the handling of hotel/motel tax dollars. The town is to put one-third into a reserve fund and make two-thirds available for promotional projects.

Councilmember Ben Alling pointed out that the town had exceeded this resolution and asked if the town could change the resolution at its next meeting and vote the funds. It was noted that to do a budget amendment the town would have to hold a public hearing. Alling asked if it could all happen the same night and the answer was “yes.”

The mayor said that he would visit with Ridge Rider officials to see if they would take $4,000 less, and then, if so, he would try to find the other $2,000.

Hansen wasn’t satisfied with the delay and pointed out that more and more visitors are using North Dam Park and that the park district was going to try again for a levy so they would have seed money to finance the park. An earlier attempt to pass a levy narrowly failed.

In a prepared piece passed out at the meeting, Coulee Dam town officials showed that it maintained two parks, Douglas Park, and Mason City Park, and that no one else helped the town with these costs.

It all ended up with visitors to the meeting trying to get Coulee Dam to loosen up the purse strings on hotel/motel money and town officials not quite fully convinced to do so.

The town will revisit the issue at its next meeting, and individuals on the council spoke out in favor of finding a way to help fund the media drive and the park maintenance issue.

The park district took over the maintenance of North Dam Park three years ago when Grand Coulee stopped its maintenance after its lease from the Bureau of Reclamation ran out. When the park district took over the park, the lawn had turned into a weed patch with weeds about 40-inches tall. Now it looks like a park.

 

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