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Council OKs $270,000 for CVB

The Harrison County Council Monday night approved $270,000 from the 4-percent innkeepers tax for the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Councilman Kenneth Saulman’s motion to that effect, seconded by Alvin Brown, passed unanimously, with Rhonda Rhoads, Ralph Sherman, Carl (Buck) Mathes and Chris Timberlake also voting in favor.
‘That wasn’t that hard, was it?’ Council Chair Gary Davis asked, rhetorically.
‘Six weeks, that’s all,’ replied CVB board chair Michael Wiseman, with an ever-so-slight edge in his voice.
CVB director Jim Epperson said yesterday his agency will now get back to the business of attracting visitors.
‘We’re going to resurrect as much as possible of what had been put on hold,’ Epperson said. ‘We’ll start working on festivals, beginning with the two coming up right away.’
Those include the week-long Harrison County Fair, which begins July 31, and Cockadoodle Days in late September, he said.
No lay-offs will be necessary, he said.
The council’s action Monday night followed impassioned pleas by several business leaders at the council’s meeting two weeks ago. They asked the council to rethink its 4-2 denial in May of $419,000 already earmarked for tourism development. About half of the tourism’s $1 million annual budget comes from the innkeepers’ tax paid by overnight visitors. The rest comes from riverboat taxes allocated by the state.
Davis told the audience there is a difference of opinion between the council and the CVB as to how the revenue ought to be released: as it’s received or in a budget based on projected funds.
Of the $419,000 request, $150,000 had already been budgeted and was available to the CVB, so that amount was deducted from the second request, making the amount $270,000. With that added to the $500,000 in the budget, about one-fourth of the CVB’s annual budget is yet to be appropriated.
CVB directors believe the budgeted amount would be secure because the funds can’t be spent until they are received.
That issue apparently hasn’t been resolved. ‘There remains some unfortunate differences of opinion about how some things should operate,’ said Epperson yesterday.
There were also two side issues, Davis said. First, the council wasn’t sure what would happen with the $300,000 the CVB gave to Main Street Corydon to buy the vacated downtown Keller site if development fell through, and second, Councilman Mathes contends the county should be represented on Main Street Corydon’s board.
The first question was put to rest with a review of the CVB’s contract with Main Street, which calls for the money to be repaid if a private development falls through. The council was assured there would be absolutely no problem with appointing any volunteer to the Main Street board, headed by Corydon businessman Floyd (Bud) Bennett.
Bennett wasn’t at the meeting, but Wiseman said: ‘It’s been a long time since Main Street turned down any volunteer.’
Mathes suggested Jack Windell, a former fair board member, to represent the council and Councilwoman Rhonda Rhoads also volunteered to serve.
CVB community development manager Sean Hawkins asked the council to appoint someone who would be willing to help, not hinder, the CVB in achieving its goals. ‘We want help, not roadblocks,’ Hawkins said.
Rhoads remarked that Hawkins’ statement appeared to be aimed at her, but he declared that wasn’t so. Rhoads said she would not be a roadblock but would work hard as long as the goals were in the county’s best interest.
Rhoads and Wiseman also differed on a point or two. While she explained that her concern last month was that the CVB had used its ‘savings’ to help Main Street buy the Keller site and had no money in reserve for long-range plans, Wiseman said she could have called him for a explanation. ‘I’m not that hard to find,’ he said.
‘Sometimes you have to do things to get someone’s attention,’ Rhoads said.
‘I think you got a lot of attention,’ Wiseman replied.
Davis chimed in: ‘To summarize … ‘

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