Logan County Tourism Bureau meet

Logan County Tourism Bureau meets with new director Bill Hoagland

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[February 01, 2017]  LINCOLN - On Monday evening, the Logan County Tourism Bureau held its second meeting for the month of January. In the first meeting, during an executive session, the group selected Bill Hoagland of Lincoln as its new director. This week, Hoagland was formally introduced to the board by Interim Board President Gail Sasse.

Hoagland has been on the job since the day after he was hired. The bureau office assistant Marlea Elias was also introduced. Elias will serve as the recording secretary at the monthly meetings of the board.

Board members present this week were Kevin Bateman, Emily Davenport, Kathy Horn, Ron Keller, Steve Parrott, Gail Sasse and Shawn Taylor.

During the course of the evening, the board met and heard from three prospective new board members, Marilyn Wheat, Kenna Shaffer and Cindy Fleshman.

Fleshman has been serving as the Interim Director of the Bureau. She has remained on the payroll to assist in the transition of Hoagland into the director position. Earlier in the evening, she said that she was now finished with her employment, but is hopeful that she will be able to serve the Bureau as a board member.

Shaffer is the manager of the Best Western and Econo Lodge in Lincoln, both owned by former tourism board member Paresh Patel. Shaffer’s family moved to the Middletown area when she was a youngster. They later moved to Lincoln. After she married, she and her husband lived for a time in Bloomington, but eventually moved back to Lincoln where they intend to stay.

Ron Keller noted that having a board member with insight to the motel industry is important to the Bureau as much of what the tourism bureau does revolves around bringing people into the community for overnight stays. The hotel/motel tax is based on “heads in beds,” and the goal of the bureau is to help promote tourist activity that will increase the heads in bed on an annual basis, thereby increasing the revenue generated by the tax.

Wheat is a lifelong resident of the Lincoln area, who says she has a love for the town as well as the county on the whole. Her professional career includes years as an employee at Lincoln Developmental Center in Lincoln and also eight years working for the city of Lincoln at City Hall.

Wheat is heavily involved with the Humane Society of Logan County and serves annually on the garage sale committee, and this past year worked beside Judy Conzo in a new First Responder calendar fundraiser, both of these events are highly successful for the HSLC.

Sasse explained that the board would discuss the three applicants in executive session, and then would present to the Lincoln City Council the names of those they wish to add. The council will then provide their “advice and consent” to the appointments. Sasse said the board would make its decision, and submit the names to the council in time to have the council vote next Monday evening.

Hoagland presented an update on the hotel/motel tax, showing the board that the dollars collected by local motels is trending downward somewhat. Hoagland said he had met with Lincoln Treasurer Chuck Conzo for a review of the numbers over the past few years, and on a month-to-month basis the numbers have dropped to a point that the total for this year may be about $30,000 short of previous years.

Board member and Lincoln Alderman Steve Parrott said he was confused as to why the numbers are down, when the local motels report that they are often fully booked. He asked if the motels were current in their payments to the city. Hoagland said that Conzo had reported there were some issues that needed to be “cleaned up in December.” This could mean a bit of a catch up on revenues in the January report, which has not yet been completed.

It was also noted there were a few months where the numbers didn’t seem to be in line with what was going on in the community. The question became, had there been an issue with the city making the payments in those months, or had something else gone wrong the board wasn’t aware of.

Sasse said she felt that Hoagland should look into this further, and see if the questions can be answered. Parrott also noted that while there were months that varied widely from year to year in 2014 and 2015, at the end of the year, the net difference was only $7,000.

Hoagland also reported that he had met with Lincoln Mayor Marty Neitzel and City Administrator Clay Johnson regarding the funding agreement between the two entities. He said during that discussion, bullet number nine was removed from the agreement. Sasse would later explain that bullet nine referred to the tourism putting money into capital investments for tourism. She said the word capital implied putting money in brick and mortar projects, and that was not in line with the role of the bureau.

Hoagland also said that the amendments to the new Tourism by-laws that had been requested by the city have been added, and the document is now ready for board approval. The board voted unanimously to approve the amended by-laws.

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The tourism board reviewed amendments to the mini-grant application used when organizations apply for advertising funds for their events. The application included a requirement that anyone requesting funds must appear before the board with their request, so as to field questions about their event and the intended use of the funding.

A second amendment stated that the bureau would award mini-grants to one day events, but that the amount awarded would not exceed $500 per event.

Ron Keller said he was concerned about setting a limit on what the bureau would award to one day events. He said there were circumstances where even though it was not an overnight event, something held locally could bring in a lot of out of town visitors who would stay over.

Shawn Taylor agreed. He said that the city and county wanted the bureau to help promote all local tourist events, and that what is considered should not be just the heads in beds, even though that does generate the income for the bureau. He also noted that some of the one day events go into the night, and there is a chance that attendees do stay over and go home the following morning. He noted as example the Oktoberfest at the Oasis where live music goes into the late hours. Another example was the live concert at the Logan County Fair each year.

Tourism and County Board member Kevin Bateman added that even though the Up in Smoke, and Pigs and Swigs is a multiple-day event, there are portions of the whole that are completed in one day. Parrot commented also that there are vendors who come to the Up in Smoke, and wondered if they stayed in motels. Also what about the competitors. Bateman said that in all fairness, there are not all that many who stay in local motels. He said many of the competitors stay downtown overnight utilizing campers. All-in-all, he said he might guess that there are 30 to 40 people who seek motel accommodations.

Keller also mentioned that he thought the mini-grant application should include a request for a total budget for the event. In the past, the board has sometimes wondered if they did not support an event what impact it would have. Their concern is that they have a limited amount of money to disburse, and they want to support the events that need it the most. If one event is able to promote itself without help from the tourism bureau, then money would be freed up for an event that cannot invest in advertising without tourism dollars.

Bateman said he wanted to look at that from another perspective. He explained that in the case of the BBQ weekend, money received from outside sources frees up the money made at the event so that it may be invested elsewhere within the competition.

Parrott suggested that the $500 maximum be taken out of the application and that awards could still be given based on a case-by-case method.

Bateman explained how the county board handles such matters. He said an amount is set aside annually, and organizations have a one-time opportunity to apply for funding. The board makes the decision of who to support, then the total dollars budgeted are disbursed. He said the tourism bureau could do something similar, opening the application process up only once, and everyone who wanted to be considered would apply at the same time for these special funds.

Hoagland said that he would get together with Keller to discuss this further and re-write portions of the application.

At the end of the evening Sasse said that it was now time for the board to go back to meeting only once per month. She said that many of the issues that had to be worked through had required more frequent meetings. However, the bureau now appears to be on a steady course, and the board should be able to go back to conducting business monthly.

The next meeting will be held on February 20th at 4:45 p.m. at the Best Western.

[Nila Smith]

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