Enterprise motel tax grants reduced

<p>Tax money collected from Enterprise's largest hotel used to generate roughly half of the amount the city directed to local nonprofits in grants to boost tourism. The hotel has been closed since October.</p>

ENTERPRISE – Having the county’s largest lodging business non-operational means fewer motel tax dollars are reaching City of Enterprise coffers, in turn reducing grant awards to local nonprofits.

Award amounts fell sharply in the latest round, completed last week by the Enterprise City Council.

The 53-room Best Western Rama Inn & Suites, which closed in October, routinely generated around 50 percent of Enterprise’s lodging tax funds, according to Michele Young, city administrator.

Largely as a result of the facility’s closure, the city council’s motel tax committee was dealing award recommendations from a pot of $14,500 – down approximately $5,500 from the $20,000 the committee is accustomed to seeing at this time of year.

Rather than exhaust available grant funds, the committee recommended awards totaling $7,100 and carrying over the balance to November, the usual time for the city’s second of two annual awards rounds.

Grants are intended primarily to boost tourism.

Councilor Stacy Karvoski, a member of the motel tax committee, explained to the full council April 8 that the committee had assigned an individual points score to each eligible application.

To save money across the board, applicants in the high-scoring range – from six to nine points – were each recommended for 50 percent of their requested amounts; and those scored at five or lower were recommended for only 25 percent.

Scoring in the upper range were apps from Bowlby Bash, Hells Canyon Mule Days, the Courthouse Concert Series, Juniper Jam, Blue Marble Arts, and Wallowa Resources. All but Wallowa Resources had requested $2,000 and won council approval for $1,000 apiece.

Wallowa Resources’ $1,700 request, on the other hand, came into councilors’ cost-cutting crosshairs. Councilor Larry Christman moved to deny WR a grant. “I second that emphatically,” said councilor Bill Coffman. The motion passed.

Likewise denied any funding was Wallowa Land Trust, which had sought $1,000 and was recommended for $250, the 25-percent level.

Another 25-percent recommendee, Wallowa County Farmers’ Market, was approved for $500 of its $2,000 request.

Deemed ineligible were requests turned in after the application deadline from Alpenfest and Mountain High Broncs and Bulls.

Also not considered was one for Jensen Field’s improvement because no one had shown up to explain the plan during public presentations in March.

The committee also wanted to dismiss an application from the Wallowa County Chamber of Commerce involving payment of some staff hours as the Chamber increased its public office hours to include half a day on Saturday. That rejection didn’t fly, however, as a few other city officials pointed out that the city itself had prodded the Chamber to add the Saturday hours. The council ultimately approved $1,645 for the Chamber’s plan.

The full council also tossed the committee’s 25-percent recommendation for GEMS’s downtown flowers program. Instead of $500 (25 percent of $2,000), the council voted to pay the program’s full $2,000 request.

Thus did GEMS gain the distinction of becoming the night’s only $2,000 requestor to receive the full $2,000. In past grant rounds, when the Best Western was still operating, awards at this maximimum level had been the norm rather than the exception.

The sudden shift to austerity isn’t welcome among the local nonprofits.

Bowlby Bash’s Mary Swanson said the event’s organizers “will have to either work harder to fundraise and/or cut back on our budget. Fortunately, the Bowlby Bash is a fairly low-budget program.”

Sondra Lozier, president of the committee producing Hells Canyon Mule Days, foresees compensating for a reduced grant (from $2,000 to $1,000) by cutting back on advertising. “It certainly is a hardship on Mule Days,” Lozier said. “It ($2,000) is something that we counted on.”

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.