Calendar  |  Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County

Tourism returns to business as usual

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[October 24, 2013]  Tuesday evening, the board of the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County met for their monthly meeting.

At the beginning of the meeting, board president Charlie Ott told the group that the tourism bureau would be going forward as usual, with its funding coming from the city effective Dec. 1.

Since last month's meeting of the bureau, there has been some discussion between city of Lincoln officials and tourism officials, and the two entities appear to have worked out some of their issues as they move toward the Dec. 1 deadline for the city to take over the hotel-motel tax from the county.

Ott said one thing that isn't going to change is the name of the bureau. Because of some of the grants the tourism bureau receives, it will continue to be a countywide program, and the words "Logan County" will remain in the name. The bureau will also continue to support the entire county in tourism efforts.

Installation of new board members will be put on hold until December. Andy Anderson, who is the liaison representing the county, told the board that right now requests to approve new board members should be submitted to the county, but the county has decided it will not approve any new members this close to the transition date.

The first order of business for the board was to review and approve or deny financial requests heard during the September meeting.

At the September meeting, Tom Leesman and Mary Ellen Martin had been on hand to request cash for a square dance convention slated to take place in Lincoln in 2015. Phyllis Beccue had also come before the board with a request for cash for the Christmas on Vinegar Hill in Mount Pulaski as well as a request for assistance with the Christmas tree fundraiser by the Mount Pulaski Courthouse Foundation, a first-time event this year.

The board reviewed all the requests and discussed them individually before making motions and taking votes on how to proceed.

In the request from the LinPro Dance Club, the board labored over how the money would be used if granted. It was discussed that the role of the tourism bureau is not to give financial support to the actual event, but rather to give assistance in promoting and advertising the event.

For a period of time it was unclear what the club wanted the money for. During their appearance the month before, Leesman had talked about the need to rent the Lincoln Park District building for the event at a cost of $600.

This week, the board discussed whether or not the request had been for money to pay that rent. In the end they decided they would support the group by providing $400. They drew this number from the request document where it said that promoting the event in local advertisements, books and websites would cost approximately $400.

The board noted that this was a multiple-day event, which would equate to heads in beds in local motels.

The request for $400 for Vinegar Hill was a much easier decision. During her presentation, Beccue had told the board that the Vinegar Hill committee wanted to expand advertising with additional television spots by a Decatur station. Because the request was clearly for advertising, the board approved it with little discussion.

The second Beccue request, for assistance for the courthouse fundraiser, brought on quite a bit of discussion among the board members.

Anderson said that in this request, he was not all that sure the fundraiser would actually promote tourism in Logan County. The trees, which are to be 18 to 24 inches tall, will be decorated and placed on display in the courthouse between Nov. 7 and Dec. 7. They are to be auctioned off Dec. 7, with the proceeds going to the courthouse foundation.

Barbara Stroud-Borth sits on the tourism board and also assists with the courthouse foundation. Gail Sasse, tourism vice president, asked who was providing the trees to be auctioned. Stroud-Borth said many of the trees had been purchased through the courthouse foundation by local businesses, schools and individuals. Those entities would decorate the trees and donate them back to the foundation for the auction.

Stroud-Borth said the event would include a reception with portrayers of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln as special guests.

Anderson still felt that granting money to this particular event was a stretch of the intended purpose of the tourism bureau.

Board member Ron Keller spoke up, saying that he seemed to recall that there had been some type of festival of trees at the Logan County Courthouse in the past. In that instance, the tourism bureau had donated an item to be sold instead of giving money.

Sasse remembered that and said the bureau had created a wreath that represented tourism in Logan County. Keller said he thought that would be a good compromise in this situation. It would show that the board supports the efforts of the foundation but doesn't cross the line on the intended purpose of tourism dollars.

In the end, the group agreed to authorize Nancy Saul, who is employed by the tourism bureau, to spend up to $150 to create an item to donate to the foundation.

Looking at new business, the board reviewed a request from the Heritage In Flight Museum, but decided to table it because there was not enough information in the request for the board to make an appropriate decision.

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Gillette Ransom was on hand to ask if the Elkhart Historical Society could use the bureau's bulk postage permit for their annual membership drive mailing. She told the board the society would bear all the costs involved in mailing out their letters, but using the tourism permit would save her group money. It was agreed that the society could use tourism's permit.

A request for $1,000 for the Route 66 Association of Illinois was tabled for the time being. Saul suggested that the board might want to wait and see if the motor tour is planning a stay-over in Lincoln again next year. In the last couple of years, the tour has come into Lincoln, held their banquets at the Lincoln College, stayed the night and left town the next day. Saul said at this time the group has not decided if they will stay over in Lincoln next year.

The tourism board all agreed with Saul that they would wait to see what the stay-over plans are for next year.

Bill Donath and Mary Ellen Martin were on hand representing the statue committee of the Logan County Genealogical & Historical Society. Donath addressed the board, defining the society's plan to raise $48,000 for a new statue on the courthouse lawn.

Donath brought with him a photo of the replica statue currently being sold. He said the committee will commission 30 of these statues, then break the mold. To date, 10 have been sold and 10 are on order. The statues will bring in a net profit of approximately $30,000 toward the life-size version. The committee is also working on other fundraising efforts, including a statue ornament that will go on sale to the public in the near future.

Donath said that when the Civil War statue was being planned, the county had donated $10,000 for the statue. He said it was his understanding that the money had been given from tourism funds, so considering the changes taking place, the committee had decided this time to go straight to the tourism board with their request for $10,000.

Donath said the committee is hoping to have funding put together so that the new statue can be erected and unveiled in October of 2014.

Keller asked if the statue was going to have any plaques recognizing donors. Donath said the committee was planning to have signage similar to that at the Civil War statue with information about the statue and a list of donors.

The board agreed that this was a decision they didn't want to make prior to the Dec. 1 transition. Martin and Donath were told they would hear from the board at a later date.

However, after the committee representatives had left, the question came up as to whether or not the county actually used tourism dollars to support the completion of the Civil War statue. Anderson said he felt this was not the case, and that there may be a misunderstanding of where those funds came from that needs to be clarified.

In other business, Leslie Hoefle is officially no longer the interim director for the tourism bureau. Ott told the board that Hoefle has agreed to come back after her vacation and work part time for the bureau, but she does not want to maintain the director position.

Keller said the board needed to address that, as a full-time director is required as a stipulation of tourism grant funds.

Anderson reported that there is a committee getting ready to restart the search for a permanent director. He said that recently he and tourism board members Andy Meister and Darlene Begolka had met with Mayor Keith Snyder and Alderman Tom O'Donohue and started outlining the parameters of the next search. He said the group had decided not to advertise in the Chicago or St. Louis areas. They will do local advertising and also use trade magazines and tourism websites throughout the region.

Saul also reported that there have been several visits in the last month to the Logan County geocaching sites. She read aloud one note that had been left at the site in Atlanta. The person writing said they lived not all that far away but had never visited Atlanta. The note expressed appreciation for the geocaching project.

The group talked about using off-site storage for some of the bulky items that are taking up space in the tourism office. They agreed to use Midwest Records Storage for 22 boxes of records currently in the director's office. Several bulky items have been brought to the bureau from The Mill on Route 66. It was discussed whether or not to rent a storage facility for some of those things. The board decided to wait and see if getting the boxes out of the building would add storage space for other items. In addition, it was discussed that a new director might take stock of what is there and decide if it is needed.

All votes for the evening were passed unanimously with the exception of the decision to support the Mount Pulaski Courthouse Foundation. In that vote, Stroud-Borth abstained because she is involved with the foundation.

The next meeting of the tourism bureau board will take place on Nov. 26.


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