Non-profits make their pitches for Motel Tax funds

Two Hwy 82 motels

ENTERPRISE – City councilors and the mayor listened to a series of quick pitches from non-profit organizations last week, a step toward deciding which groups will share this year in Enterprise's Motel Tax revenues.

At the city council's monthly regular meeting on March 19 (held a week later than usual because too few councilors could attend a week earlier), presentations from applicants for Motel Tax grants were expected to consume most of the meeting. The council's plan to keep it under control: Limit presentations to three minutes each.

It worked fairly well as presenters – 11 in all, but pitching 13 different projects (two of the presenters each had two projects) – cut themselves short, when necessary, to adhere to the time allotment. An enforcer, Councilor Tim Parks, sounded a verbal alert whenever someone's time was expiring.

Jean Pekarek, from Wallowa Land Trust, led off the presentations with a short talk on “Into the Wallowas” – nine Saturday outings and three evening lectures highlighting the local area's natural history and cultural heritage.

Pekarek noted that Into the Wallowas attracted approximately 120 participants when it debuted in 2009, but in 2011, its third year, more than 420 people took part. Most of that increase is apparently from visitors. Pekarek said first-year participation broke down to roughly half locals and half visitors, but now “the percentage of visitors to local has gone up.” She said the appeal seems to be “not only that they're having fun, but they're learning something about the place that they're visiting.”

Mary Swanson followed Pekarek with a presentation on Bowlby Bash, Enterprise's single-day, downtown summertime celebration (scheduled July 14 this year) offering music and art in a family fun atmosphere. “We showcase other non-profits,” Swanson added.

Alpenmeister Chuck Anderson, spearhead of a renewed local Alpenfest celebration in late September (Sept. 27-30 this year), refrained from playing the polka music he had loaded and ready to go in a portable player. He reminded the City Hall audience, though, that the new Alpenfest, a four-day fling, is bigger than its predecessor, involving Enterprise as well as Joseph.

Following presentations, in order, were made on behalf of:

• The Wallowa County Fair Board, which proposes to upgrade the Cloverleaf Hall restrooms. Request: $2,000.

• Hells Canyon Mule Days, asking for $2,000, interested in changing its billboard design at Island City and increasing pages in the event's insert in the La Grande Observer.

• Greater Enterprise Main Street, requesting $2,000 to cover the cost of pots, soil, flowers and watering services supporting flowers in downtown Enterprise.

• Jensen Field Improvement Group, $2,000.

• The Courthouse Concert Series, $2,000.

• Juniper Jam Music, $2,000.

• Wallowa County Farmers' Market, which hopes to add new signage. Request: $2,000.

• Mountain High Broncs and Bulls, $2,000.

• Alpine Meadows Golf Course, requesting $2,000 to purchase a used rough mower that represents an upgrade from the current mower.

• Wallowa Resources, sponsor of the Watershed Festival, asking for $1,700.

Toward the end of the entire segment, Councilor Doug Terry said he believed many of the requests didn't meet established requirements for the grants.

“Did you guys read the criteria for these grants? Because this doesn't fit, I don't think,” he told John Decker, who made Alpine Meadows' pitch for a mower. Terry said he was targeting the Alpine Meadows request merely as an example, because there were others that he felt also didn't fit.

Mayor Steve Lear seemed to agree. “It's real clear that if it doesn't meet the criteria, then we're going to have to bounce it,” Lear said.

City Administrator Michele Young said the council's three-member Motel Tax committee, which includes Lear and councilors Parks and Margie Shaw, would meet to craft recommendations on funding levels for the various grant requests. The full council will then vote on the recommendations at city government's next regular meeting in April.

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