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One of three requests for funding to the Local Option Tax Commission has led to extensive discussion about a heretofore unexplored area identified as, money to pay past debt.

A funding request from the Salmon Valley Racing Association for $8,000 was broken down into $2,000 for a track surface upgrade and $6,000 for past expenses.

Councilman Jim Bockelman is Chairman of the LOT Commission and in his report to the January 2nd Council meeting he said there is nothing in the LOT ordinance preventing the money from going to pay for past bills. He said the commission views the Racing Association as something thatís good for the community because of the visitors its events bring to town. At the same time the commission agreed the association needs to be run better.

Bockelman said after lengthy discussion at the LOT Commission meeting the boardís recommendation was to give the association $6,000. It also strongly recommended the association actively look into revenue generating fund raising events.

Two other requests were heard by the LOT Commission at its December 11 meeting. The Salmon Valley Chamber of Commerce asked for $15,000 for advertising and marketing and the Salmon Marathon requested $11,000 for its 2013 race.

Bockelman said the commission recommended giving the Chamber $3,000 to meet the required match of an Idaho Travel Council grant and will revisit the remainder of the funding request at a later time. The City Council approved the commissionís $3,000 recommendation.

Bockelman said the Salmon Marathon, which is a qualifying event for the Boston Marathon, experienced many pre-paid no shows last August due to the smoke from forest fires. The runners who cancelled were given a pass for the 2013 registration fee and because of that there will not be as much up-front revenue to put into the event. The commission recommended the Marathon be given $8.000. Even though this too had to do with past actions the City Council felt cancellations due to smoke had nothing to do with the Salmon Marathonís organizational efforts and it approved the LOT Commissionerís recommendation of $8,000.

Past actions were however, a deciding factor in discussions over the Salmon Valley Racing Association funding request.

During a Public Comment opportunity that took place between Bockelmanís LOT report and the council vote on commission recommendations, several complaints against the Salmon Valley Racing Association were aired. Joni James, whose husband and son have actively participated in track maintenance and racing, cited instances of drinking drivers, drug use, foul language, misuse of funds and safety issues. She said the association has not supplied copies of meeting minutes when requested and does not announce meetings before they are held. She said when five members took those concerns to the Fair Board they were subsequently banned from the track by the association. James said the bans caused five of the eight local drivers to drop out of racing events.

Rob Jackson is an appointed member of the Lemhi County Fair Board and acts as the boardís race trackís representative. He was one of those banned from the track by the association. He said he was banned from racing towards the end of last season and for next season as well. ďThey banned me and I canít even go to a race, which is kind of comical because they canít ban a Fair Board member from the Fair Grounds.Ē

Jackson said the whole thing started over the association allowing a car to race that was not in legal compliance. He said some members lodged an official complaint and it was downhill from there. Jackson said the combined attendance from the last three races of the season was less then at any one of the first two races. He said the problem is coming from the management not the track.

The Salmon City Council has the final say on Local Option Tax Commission funding recommendations. When it came to the Salmon Valley Racing Association request Councilman Fred Waidely pointed out that reimbursement requests have been turned down in the past and he didnít think bailing something out of a hole was the purpose of LOT Ďs role in the community. He favored using the money for future programs that will bring something into the community rather than for something that happened last year. Councilman Jesse Bender agreed and Councilman Jim Baker questioned the association banning individuals from a public facility. Councilman Ken Hill felt the complaints dictate further research and the general feeling was that much more information is needed. The council vote to not approve the racing association funding request was five to one. Bockelman said although he agreed with the councilís stand he supports the commissionís reasoning behind recommending approval.

An end of year fiscal review shows a total of $82,917 was collected through the Local Option Tax which is $5,521 more than in 2011.

The next meeting of the Local Option Tax Commission is set for January 22nd at 5:30PM in the Salmon Valley Center meeting room.

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