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City sets plans to spend tourism funds


Electric City council agreed to the allotment of hotel/motel tax money for 2016 at its meeting last Tuesday and will consider keeping more than a quarter million dollars in tourism-promotion funds toward funding a pathway.

The council tourism committee, made up of councilmembers Brad Parrish and Richard McGuire, recommended allotting the Grand Coulee Dam Area Chamber of Commerce $25,000 for tourism promotion, with the stipulation that $3,200 be taken from that amount to make up for overpayments the city made during 2015.

That created a debate about the fact that the May Colorama celebration wasn’t included in that amount. McGuire stated that Colorama should be self-sustaining. The chamber had asked for $15,000 specifically for the Colorama Festival alone.

Councilmember Lonna Bussert asked that the amount given to the chamber be increased to $35,000.

There were several long periods when nothing was happening, giving the councilmembers plenty of time to check their fingernails. This eventually prompted Mayor John Nordine II to ask the council, “What do you want me to do?”

That’s when Councilmember Aaron Derr, who was on the road and present for the meeting through a telephone hookup, suggested that the council and chamber split the difference. He said he would go for $30,000 “with the understanding that the chamber would not come back later in the year and ask for more.”

That appeared to satisfy everyone, at least enough to move the issue along.

The overall vote on the chamber proportionment was 4-1. Councilmembers Carol Nordine, McGuire, Derr and Bussert all voted yes; Parrish voted no.

The council also agreed to take $40,000 from hotel/motel funds to pay for planning a pathway.

Other allotments went to the Ridge Riders, $10,000; Coulee Pioneer Museum, $1,000; Coulee Corridor advertising, $1,000; and Coulee Area Park & Recreation District for North Dam Park, $5,000.

The Electric City hotel/motel fund is currently at $284,000. After the 2016 payments and the anticipated revenue, the city estimates it will close out 2016 with $265,000.

McGuire asked that the council vote at its next meeting to reserve the rest of its hotel/motel tax funds as designated for a pathway project.

The city has indicated its interest in doing a local project with its surplus hotel/motel tax money, and since last spring has been working on a pathway project that would provide a pedestrian and bicycle pathway between Sunbanks Lake Resort and North Dam Park. The first phase of the project would connect Coulee Playland and North Dam Park.

The city plans on holding public meetings prior to the development of a finished plan for the pathway.

The 2016 allotment to the chamber will be about $8,200 less than it was in 2015, after the $3,200 overpayment is taken from the chamber’s total of $30,000.

Originally for this year, the city had designated just over $24,000 for the chamber in 2015, but agreed to add another $10,000 in July.

The chamber had requested a total of $100,000 for 2016, and has had a running disagreement with the city over how it releases its hotel/motel money.

The council also agreed to fund the Rural Communities Design Institute’s (RCDI) proposal to assist with the pathway project.

The RCDI would provide a team of students and a faculty member from Washington State University’s School of Design and Construction to assist with pre-planning exercises. The $5,000 would come out of the $40,000 voted on earlier to support a plan for the pathway. The $5,000 would take care of travel and lodging expenses incurred by the WSU student/faculty team.

The WSU group would assist in workshops with the general public this next spring and summer.

This would precede the actual detailed design and plan for the pathway. The city’s engineering firm, Gray & Osborne, would eventually do the plan.

Parrish, who has been the prime mover on the pathway project, said that other elements might be added to the pathway plan, such as information on the Ice Age and the Missoula Flood.

Birdie Hensley, who was just elected to the council and will take office in January, said that the Coulee Corridor still is interested in putting an informational kiosk somewhere in North Dam Park and that it could be linked to the trail.

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