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CVB board split on giving money to private projects

Following a meeting that went beyond two hours, directors of the Harrison County Convention and Visitors Bureau voted 2-2 Monday on investing in private capital projects to boost tourism.
CVB Chair Olivia Orme declined to cast a tie-breaker, citing the need for more information to reach a consensus.
Michael Wiseman’s motion to adopt a policy against funding for capital projects for private, non-government entities and to continue investing resources in marketing for tourism promotion was seconded by Larry Bennett. Ed Pitman and Dennis Mann voted nay.
“I would love to know where our community leaders are (on the issue),” Orme said.
Bennett, who represents the town on the tourism board, said, “The town’s position is not to use money for anything other than marketing activities.”
The funding issue has been prompted by the non-profit Indian Creek Trail group’s request for $60,000 to construct 3,000 feet of concrete trail in the second phase of its pedway, from the West Bridge to the North Bridge in Corydon.
Harrison County Councilman Carl Duley, who attended the CVB session with councilmen Gary Davis and Alvin Brown, said the trail project appears worthy of CVB support, if the money can be made available.
Trail proponents Maryland Austin Scharf and Randy West, both of Corydon, said although the community has provided little financial support for the project, both youth groups and businesses, such as Tyson Foods, have pledged support.
“I don’t foresee there being a bit of a problem to have people adopt a section of the trail for maintenance,” Scharf said. “But it will be a concrete sidewalk, so there won’t be much maintenance.”
Trail group president Bill Gerdon also lobbied for support.
Providing the walking trail would be an asset to tourism, he said, because it would be another attraction for visitors after the First State Capital and other attractions close in the evenings.
Jenny Rog, who with her husband, Peter, owns Magdalena’s restaurant in Corydon, agreed. “We see that as a vital attraction for tourism,” she said.
“This is a wonderful project,” said Wiseman, “but it’s not the only one.”
And funding for such projects doesn’t fall under the tourism board’s mission, as defined by state law, he said.
Likewise, Bennett said, “I want to make sure Indian Creek knows we’re not against the project.”
The project, said Wiseman, “ideally ought to be in the park budget, but that’s not going to happen.”
(The parks department, in recent years, has received funds to keep its existing seven facilities open, but the unspoken directive from public officials has been not to attempt expansion due to costs.)
Developing a small convention center, for which the CVB has been setting aside funds, and investing in the trail project are different, because a convention center would likely be a county government facility as opposed to a privately owned and maintained trail, Wiseman said.
Also, Wiseman said expanding the popular, free Friday night concerts on the town square would be a proper use of the funds. “It could be a larger gazebo,” he said. “To me, the difference is in who’s asking.”
Mann, however, said the trail would fall along the same avenue as beautification of the town. “In my mind, I don’t see a lot of difference.”
Some support did surface among CVB board members for setting aside a portion of its annual budget for investments in tourism-related projects. “This is the way I see it,” Orme said. “If you all decide on a budget small enough for us to take care of without a problem … to give support once a year on projects, I would go with that.
“However, if it’s a bigger amount of money that would take a lot of dollars and a lot of time, I won’t go for it,” she said.
The need to help existing businesses with promotion also arose, in part due to Orme’s many years in business here with Old Capitol Inn.
“I would hate to think we’re looking for something new and ignoring what we have,” she said. “These businesses are struggling … ”
Increasing the CVB’s advertising dollars to include existing businesses might be one way to help, she said.
“It’s not that we can’t think about doing something to help a new entity,” she added.
Wiseman to head CVB’s board
Following Monday’s meeting, Michael Wiseman will take over as chair of the CVB board.
He was elected unanimously after chairman Olivia Orme declined to serve another term. She said the board now meets more often than she can attend, especially during the spring and summer due to her work schedule, and so she stepped down as president.