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COUNCIL DECIDES LOT ALLOCATIONS 3-16-16 LMS

The Salmon City Council has approved a recommendation to allocate $6,000 Local Option Tax (LOT) dollars to the City of Salmon for Island Park Bridge engineering fees. It also decided to give one event much more than what the LOT Commission recommended.

The decisions came at the council’s March 16 meeting after lengthy debate.

The most outspoken opposition to giving LOT funds to the city came from Councilman Jim Bockelman who, although unable to attend, put his comments in writing which were delivered to the council by way of his son Austin. The councilman wrote that although the request may fall into one of the LOT ordinance categories he did not believe it to be in the spirit of what the monies were originally intended to fund which was; promoting the area and enticing visitors to put their “heads in beds.” Bockelman said the engineering fees for the bridge project as well as the upgrades of the Sacajawea Center, which was the second request for money that would go to the city, should be paid for by city funds. He stated he is strongly opposed to using LOT monies for city projects. Bockelman wrote, “Nowhere other than the city [swimming] pool does the ordinance specify direct funding of city projects or city department needs. These should be funded and paid for through the city budgeting process or the contingency fund.”

Bockelman said to use LOT funds for other than what is spelled out in the voter approved ordinance adds ammunition to those who believe the city is using LOT funds for the city’s benefit alone. As to the other requests on the 10 item list of commission recommendations he gave his support saying they were more closely related to the heads-in-beds philosophy and will bring more LOT funds to the table which will ensure the funding of future LOT projects.

A separate council vote was taken on each of the commission’s funding recommendations.

The $6,000 recommendation to fund bridge engineering costs was the first to be discussed. Councilman Russ Chinske thought Bockelman made some good points as to the spirit and intent of the LOT program and he liked Bockelman’s suggestion that if the $6,000 was not awarded it should be spread among the other applicants. Commission Chair Robin Watkins said bridges and the Sacajawea Center do have a lot to do with the community. Councilman Jim Baker saw no problem with the Sacajawea Center funding but did question funding bridge engineering fees. Councilman Neal James thought the money would be better spent divided among other requests and Councilman Ken Hill said he was torn on funding the engineering fees since that is a stretch even though it would fit into the economic development portion of the LOT ordinance.

Councilman Rob Jackson said the decision is a tough one. He pointed out that one of the questions on the funding application form is, “Will this project get done if it is not funded?” and he said that in this case, “Yes it will get done.” He agreed with Brockelman’s view of public opinion.

City Community Project Development Coordinator Mary Cerise is a member of the LOT Commission and made a point of saying she recused herself from voting on the commission’s recommendation to fund bridge engineering fees. She told the council that 98 percent of the communities collecting a bed tax use the money to fund city infrastructure. Regarding funding the bridge engineering fees she said, “Do I think we need it? Absolutely.” Cerise said that of the communities participating in the LOT program McCall is the only other city which funds things other than infrastructure and they are considering changing that policy.

Councilman Baker moved to approve the $6,000 to go towards engineering fees and it passed four to one with Neal James casting the only no vote.

The $1,696 request from the Sacajawea Center passed the City Council unanimously. Center Director Lin Gray is also a member of the LOT Commission and she abstained from participating in the commission’s vote to recommend the funding. Commission member Craig McCallum is a member of the Salmon Whitewater Park Association (SWPA) and therefore recused himself from the commission’s SWPA recommendation.

Councilman James reported on an informal survey he conducted with four local motels. He asked each management to rate various events as to which ones bring the most guests to their establishment. He said they all agreed hockey contributes the most. After that the Horse Sale is the biggest ‘bed filler’ followed by Salmon River Days. The Fair and Rodeo tied with the Father’s Day Car show and the Beaverhead Endurance Run was said to provide a few guests. According to motel owners the Salmon Marathon produces very few customers. James said he asked if the Whitewater Park Association’s Riverfest brought motel guests and was told there was no impact at all. James added that the public in general feels the LOT Commission is over weighted with city employees and that it should be more diversified.

The council unanimously approved $4,000 in LOT funding for the Salmon Stampede Fair and Rodeo and $4,200 for the Beaverhead Endurance Run. On a four to one vote the council approved $4,000 for the Whitewater Therapeutic Riding Association/Salmon Marathon event. James cast the one ‘no’ vote.

The council approved the LOT Commission’s recommendation of $2.400 for the Whitewater Park Association/Riverfest on a three to two vote with James and Jackson voting against it and unanimously approved $2,300 for the Farmer’s Market. Another unanimous approval went to the Century Ride for $1,200 in LOT funding.

The event that received more than twice what was recommended by the LOT Commission was Salmon River Days. After a discussion centered on the event’s very long history, current struggling circumstances and its importance to the town the City Council unanimously awarded $5,000 in LOT funding to this year’s event which was $2,800 more than recommended.


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