Friday, April 19, 2013
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Historical society voices support for tourism bureau

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[April 19, 2013]  Monday evening prior to the regular voting session of the Lincoln City Council, there was a public hearing in regard to the city's budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

Generally these public hearings last less than a minute as Mayor Keith Snyder calls the hearing to order, asks if anyone would like to address the council, and then when no one responds, he closes the meeting.

However, this year, there was someone who wanted to speak. Marla Blair addressed the council on behalf of the Logan County Genealogical & Historical Society. Blair is the vice president and program coordinator for the society. She told the council that the group had their board meeting earlier in the evening and voted to lend their voice in support of the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County.

"At our board meeting earlier this evening, we discussed the partnership we have with tourism. I volunteered to (come and) put a word in for the bureau. Basically, that is all we can do at this point," Blair said.

She continued: "We are not the only historical society in the county. I have spoken with other representatives from those around the county, and it our consensus that we would like to have the tourism stand as it is because they are a partner; they (tourism) advocate for us. They help advertise; there are a number of venues which they visit; they are always present at out-of-town events; and it is a substantial organization that does a good job as far as we're concerned; and we're part of those communities and part of those efforts that they are trying to support."

Blair concluded: "We felt we need to stand by them because they are there for us. For what that is worth, and what you do is up to you, but we would like for you to know that they do not stand alone."

When Blair finished speaking, the public hearing was called to a close without further discussion.

Later in the evening the council went into their final discussions on the budget for the coming year. During that time the tourism bureau was not mentioned.

In weeks past, the discussions have gone back and forth as to what to do with the tourism bureau. This has all stemmed from the city's interest in taking over the hotel-motel tax that currently is levied by Logan County for tourism development.

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The county collects a 5 percent hotel operators' occupation tax from hotel and motel, and bed-and-breakfast stays.

Of that amount, the tourism  bureau receives the equivalent of a 4 percent tax, which is budgeted this year at $142,770; Main Street Lincoln gets a quarter percent, $7,500; Looking for Lincoln gets a quarter percent, $7,500; and the remaining half percent falls into a category called "historic sites," which was budgeted in the amount of $15,000 for the county's fiscal year 2013 that ends Nov. 30.

Funding awards for historic sites are considered county development. Once a year during the county finance committee budget hearings, various entities put in requests for funds for projects or events.

According to state law, municipalities have the first option to receive the hotel-motel tax revenues.

Mayor Keith Snyder brought this to the council's attention soon after he was elected for his first term in office. It then went on the back burner until just recently, when the council members decided they might be interested in taking over that revenue stream.

In recent weeks they have discussed the focus of the tourism bureau and have talked about offering greater guidance to the bureau on what the city as a whole would benefit from in tourism promotions.

At last week's committee of the whole meeting, the council agreed to establish a special committee to address this with the tourism bureau. The objective of the committee is to assist the bureau in understanding the city's expectations of them. The committee will also lend opinions as to whether or not the bureau as it stands now is capable of meeting those expectations.

At last week's committee of the whole meeting, the general consensus was that the city would not take over the hotel-motel tax before Dec. 1, which marks the beginning of a new fiscal year for the county.


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