Commission grants restaurant tax revenues to fund projects in area
The Carbon County Commission was recently advised that because of the disposition of a couple of court cases in the state, the granting of restaurant tax monies to certain types of organizations, some of which received money from the fund in the past, would not be allowed any longer.
That fact brought some heartburn to a lot of people when the commission met last week and had to make decisions on recommendations from the restaurant tax committee for funding various requests.
"The problem is that the state has tightened up the regulations because of a couple of recent court cases, and we have to abide by those rules," said Commission Chair Mike Milovich. "All of us want to see these organizations and activities thrive, but it is out of our hands."
However, there were a number of people in the audience at the meeting that were upset about the way the applications for the money are handled and about the fact that some spent many hours working on applications only to find they were not eligible.
"People apply for this money and then we have to turn them down because they don't qualify," said Jana Abrams, the restaurant committees chairperson. "It makes us look like the bad guys after they do all that work. We need to have some kinds of guidelines as to who and who not can apply so they don't go to all the trouble if they can't even qualify."
The discussion began after the Carbon High Rodeo Club made a presentation about their request. They were turned down because they aren't actually a part of the school district, but an outside private organization.
"I'm very sorry," said Milovich. "But they are disqualified by law."
But some in the room grumbled that they had been referred to the committee by various officials, only to find out that their efforts could not succeed.
"The problem is that groups who can not qualify for the money are being referred when they shouldn't be."
Abrams suggested that the commission see the applications before the committee does to review them for legalities, but it was the opinion of the commissioners that the best way to avoid the problem anymore is for the county attorney to look at them prior to the quarterly meeting.
The second group on the agenda that wanted money was the Carbon County Country Club for the golf course. The restaurant committee had approved $15,000 and the commission agreed to give it that much.
"Thanks for looking at us," said course pro Tom King. "We are looking at putting in some large trees, some more block work in certain areas and some cart passes."
Some in the audience asked some questions about the award to the course but the commissioners defended the award.
"This is a public course and the county has over three million dollars invested in it," said Milovich.
Next up was the Greek Festival. This was one of those situations where the county had given the event money in the past, but couldn't this year.
Proponents brought up the fact that the festival brings a lot of people into the area from outside and provides income for restaurants and motels.
But the fact that it is basically a private event keeps it from qualifying for the money according to Milovich.
"It benefits the church," stated Milovich.
Gene Strate, county attorney, also pointed out that any money the county grants must also show a direct tax benefit.
Kathy Smith, director of tourism brought up the fact that they had conducted interviews and it showed that the people attending had averaged spending at least $75 per day in the area when they visit for the festival. But what was actually generated in taxes became the question.
"I'm not so sure we can show the value," said Commissioner Bill Krompel.
Smith brought up the fact that the festival only used the money given the event from the county for outside advertising, which brought in people from a lot of places.
"Maybe we should just place an ads for the Greek Festival through the tourism board,"stated Smith.
But Milovich cautioned the travel bureau official that doing that exclusively for the festival may be illegal.
"You can advertise for multiple events, but not just the Greek Festival," indicated Milovich. "The problem doesn't lie with anyone trying to keep anyone from doing anything, but with the law. If people feel the regulations are unfair they need to contact the legislature and get it changed."
The next project was the construction of rest rooms at the new Gigliotti Fishing Pond the Division of Wildlife Resources is constructing in north Helper.
The proponents had asked for $26,000 and the committee had granted $15,000. But again the problem of some kind of private involvement was an issue.
The property on which the rest rooms were to be constructed still belongs to Ross Gigliotti, even though the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has a 20-year lease.
Structures built on private land by restaurant tax money goes against the regulations.
"I understand the need for these rest rooms in that area," said Milovich. "We need to find another way to do this."
Commissioner Tom Matt-hews suggested that Helper officials approach Gigliotti about donating enough land to the city so the restrooms can be constructed on public property.
The funding request was tabled until options to resolve the problem can be researched.
Next came the county fair and rodeo. Both events are sponsored by county government and the committee had recommended that the event be given $5,000 in restaurant tax revenues. The Carbon commissioners agreed.
Next up was the Helper Arts Festival, which had requested $30,000.
The restaurant tax committee had turned down the event's funding request.
It appeared that the reason the committee members had turned down the funding request had been based on two factors.
First, acording to the committee members, the majority of the food vendors were not from the local area at the last festival.
Second, the arts festival does not encourage local vendors to participate in the event.
"According to our records, more than 50 percent of the food vendors were from Carbon or Emery County at last years festival," pointed out Mark Stukenscheineider, who represented the art festival.
"And more than once, we have placed notices in the FYI column in the newspaper as well as in the 'See and Do' special section of the Sun Advocate," added the event representative.
Stukenscheineider also gave the county commission some statistics regarding last years festival.
"We had 5,000 to 7,000 people attend the event each day and more than 36,000 meals were consumed during that time," pointed out the festival representative. "In a survey, we found that 316 rooms were rented over that five day period that involved either participants or attendees."
Stukenscheineider also told the county commission that not all the money is spent on things that are gone after the festival. In fact, some of the money is invested in infrastructure each year.
With funds the Helper Art Festival gets this year, the group had intended on investing $2,500 of it for infrastructure.
Dave Steed, also representing the festival, brought up the fact that some of the money requested would be used for advertising outside the area.
"We need dollars to get the crowds out," said Steed.
Abrams then approached the commission and informed the lawmakers that she thought the festival should get at least some of the requested money based on what she had heard that evening.
Abrams told the commissioners that there obviously had been misunderstandings about not only the local vendor numbers, but also about some figures that reported big losses on the festival.
The commission finally came up with a figure of $15,000 for the festival.
Next was a request for money to begin looking at building a golf course on Airport Road.
However, the county commissioners were not really receptive to the idea.
"First of all, where it is proposed we would have to move the landfill," pointed out Milovich. "Just re-permitting alone would cost between two and four hundred thousand dollars."
Krompel also voiced concern about supporting the proposed golf course project.
"We have to be careful to not over extend ourselves," said Krompel. "There are many issues that are important and need funding."
Commissioner Matthews also added input on the subject,
"If not just the cost there is also another large issue - water," indicated Matthews. "We would need another 700 to 1,000 shares of water for such a development and, in a drought year like this it would even be harder."
No action was taken on the request.
Acting on an unrelated matter, the commissioners granted $2,700 to Price city to help in putting up the mines statue in West Park.
The county lawmakers tabled a request from Wellington for $2,400 for the July 24th celebration.
The funding for the Pioneer Day event was requested by a private organization.
But the money is actually needed by the city.
Wellington city could apply for the restaurant tax revenues and would make the transaction legal according to the law.
The United Way's request for $40,000 in restaurant tax revenuers was also turned down on the basis of being a private organization.
Finally, money was allocated to Helper city to help fund the renovation of the bleachers at the American Legion Ball Park.
The restaurant tax committee had recommended granting $27,500 of the city's $45,500 request.
But as the commissioners discussed the project with Jeff Jewkes and Jeff Cisneros, the men in charge of the project for the city, the county lawmakers realized that the recommended amount would not be enough money for the city to finish the project.
Consequently, the commission granted the Helper city project $31,000.