Volume 8, Number 37 - December 4, 2008
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Visitor’s Center will carry on
Officials met again Tuesday in an attempt to ensure the Sublette County Visitor’s Center remains a functioning building on Pinedale’s main strip.
Worries aired about the building’s future funding and management, after the lodging tax’s recent failure and disputes between the Tourism Board and the Chamber of Commerce, the two entities responsible for keeping the doors open.
The failure of the lodging tax meant an end to the funds currently used by the tourism board to support wages and maintenance at the center.
Board members and Chamber Director Terrie Swift met with the county commissioners Tuesday to present a projected $66,000-budget for the next fiscal year and determine what the Chamber’s contribution to the center’s operations should be.
“I think what we’d like to discuss is what that percent would come to,” said current Chamber President Forest Wakefield.
The commissioners asked Wakefield what the Chamber thought they could pitch in. Wakefield stated this past year the Chamber was responsible for nearly $18,500 and that was a little much. He added he felt $13,000 was in the range of what the Chamber could provide for the next year.
The $66,000 did not reflect the roughly $13,000 that the Chamber could provide towards the center, Swift said, as well as providing part of the workforce, any monies gathered by renting upstairs office space or what the Tourism Board could supply with the remainder of its incoming tax money.
The Chamber discussed the option of the county taking over the upstairs office spaces as a contribution to the center but the commissioners could not think of any staff they were paying office space for that could use that space.
The county determined the agreement would remain with the Chamber to support the Visitor’s Center and they would work with the Tourism Board portion for what they would provide, as the two entities have had problems making agreements on their own. The commissioners agreed to keep the building as a visitor’s center even with the failure of the lodging tax. Commission Chair Bill Cramer said he saw no reason to fill the space with another business.
“I would rather, push comes to shove, leave it vacant and put it on the ballot in two years … and hope for the best,” he said. “My feeling is I am willing to support the Chamber in being the entity running this place when there are no funds left to keep it open.”
“We built it for that reason and it’s there and it’s a nice building and we need to keep it open,” he added.
Tourism Board Funds
It has been up the in the air since the lodging tax failure as to how the Tourism Board will spend the remainder of the money the tax supplied and when the board will formally dissolve.
The Tourism Board also met with the commissioners on Tuesday to propose what their board thought might be a good solution.
John Godfrey of the Tourism Board explained that technically, the board did not have to be dissolved until all money was spent, and since the State Treasurer’s Office would hold the last three payments for a year, they felt they could budget their money until then. This would keep the board together until members could put the tax on the ballot again at the next municipal election.
With several presentations from other tourism-interested parties, including the Scenic Byway committee and a member of both the Sweetwater Chamber of Commerce and the Wyoming Tourism Board, the board explained the importance of tourism in Sublette County to both local and state communities.
The proposed budget would allow the tourism board to fulfill obligations (such as a $57,000, 20-percent grant match to the state’s $237,000 to improve the outside area at the Visitor’s Center), spend nearly $140,000 for advertising and support the Visitor’s Center.
“We’re proposing to allocate $2,330 monthly to those core costs (at the Visitor’s Center),” Godfrey said. “This is a transitional budget, a bridge budget, that will allow us to move forward.”
The other option would be returning the money to the entities providing to it, or leaving it with the county to allocate as provided by the statutes under which the tourism board functions.
Either way, the commission said, they would like to see some of the funds, whether from the tourism board or from returned funds, go to support tourism in the county.
“As far as I am concerned, if there is money there it will go to a Visitor’s Center,” Cramer said.
The commissioners said they would continue to look into the different options with their lawyer and see how to keep the different entities afloat until the next election, which would prove the final deciding factor as to their fates.
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