The restaurant tax advisory board meets quarterly to consider funding requests. The panel has several options and members can recommend to the county commission that requests be denied, reduced or fully funded.
The money for the projects comes from a special tax enacted a few years ago that is collected on meals served within the county.
The board met recently and sent five recommendations to the commission which they reviewed last Wednesday during their regularly scheduled meeting.
The first recommendation was to approved funding for the tourism specialists position the county started a couple of years ago. This position helps promote tourism in the area.
"My impression is that having someone do this has helped the tourism in our area," commented Commissioner Bill Krompel.
The amount in restaurant tax monies requested to fund the position was $15,892.
"I understand we had 35,000 visitors come through the tourism center last year," said Commissioner Steve Burge. "I think it has helped a great deal. One thing I think could be improved is the signage for the center. If we are going to have it, we need to be sure people can see where it is and find it."
The commission approved the funds.
The second request came from the Price Kiwanis Club for $1,700 to help cover the cost of the fireworks display at the fairgrounds on Independence Day. The restaurant board recommended giving the money to the club, but the commissioners faced a dilemma.
"We have been doing this for years, but in light of some recent court decisions on how this money can be used I am worried about if we can give it to them any more," stated Commission Chairman Mike Milovich.
Discussion ensued about a case pitting the Salt Lake commissioners against county attorney Doug Short hat was settled by the Utah Supreme Court in 2000.
The lawsuit involved several issues, one pertaining to restaurant tax funds. The Salt Lake County Commission had given monies to various private agencies to use for the "general welfare" of residents. Funding was approved for the Christmas in April Program, Good Samaritan Program and the Utah Issues Poverty Conference. In August 1999, Short filed a challenge in court claiming the commission had violated the law of allowing government agencies to give money to organizations without "consideration flowing to and from the county."
The final court decision has been giving counties across the state heartburn and was the crux of the dilemma faced by the commission last Wednesday about the fireworks issue and the non-profit Kiwanis Club.
"This is a very questionable situation,' said Carbon County Attorney Gene Strate. "But if we can show some kind of value returning to the county it could be possible."
Krompel pointed out the community benefits from the event and county money paid for only a portion of the fireworks which usually cost more than $5,000.
"Actually all the cities within the county help with the funding too," said Burge.
Krompel went through the list of money provided by Helper, Wellington, Price, East Carbon and Sunnyside cities.
It was brought up that, since residents benefited from the display, the Kiwanis Club could be considered an agent of the county in purchasing and setting off the fireworks. Therefore, the funds were approved.
Next was a request from the fair committee for funds to help publicize the event outside the county and bring in a headline entertainer. Rhonda Peterson and Patti Pierce requested $15,000 for the rodeo and fair, but the board recommended $7,500.
"One of the only ways we can get people who have lived here in the past or have interests here to know about the fair dates is to advertise upstate," said Ward Pierce, who supports the annual event. "We try to pay for as much of what we have to spend with this kind of money so we don't have to charge for many of the events and minimal for the others. Our goal is to have an event that is inexpensive so that all county residents can enjoy it."
The commission approved the recommended amount.
Next on the request list was East Carbon City. The city requested $8,600 and the board recommended $2,750. The city wanted funding for a public announcement system, tables for events, playground equipment for Sunnyside Park and prizes for the an nual car show and rodeo.
"We would like to get our own PA system to use at events," said East Carbon Mayor Bruce Andrews. "We also need more tables, particularly for Sunnyside Days. We just don't have enough places for people to sit to enjoy the good food we serve."
The municipalities have little playground equipment because, a few years ago, East Carbon officials were directed by risk management to remove all the old equipment because of safety concerns.
The county commissioners approved awarding $2,750 in restaurant restaurant tax monies in connection with the request.
The final item from the restaurant board involved a request denied by the commission last year, primarily due to the same concerns the lawmakers had with the fireworks situation and the Kiwanis Club.
The final agenda matter concerned $3,100 in restaurant tax revenues Carbon High had requested to purchase specialized timing equipment to be used on the school's new track.
The initial contention was that the equipment would be used for all track meets. But with the new facilities, Carbon High could also attract mega track meets with dozens of schools involved, including some state events.
The idea was that attracting large groups of people for multiple days into the local area would fill the restaurants and motels with athletes as well as spectators.
However, the point of the proposal was moot by the time the request was brought before the county commission last week, since a different source of funding was found for the system.
However, similar requests could come up in the future and the commissioners felt the matter needed to be better clarified for not only the restaurant board when the members considered the overtures, but also for the lawmakers when the county had to make the related funding decisions.
"I think we need to put together a plan that is specific and funnels money to one place or another," stated Burge. "After reading the decision and the law, it is somewhat ambiguous. The board and the commission both need standards to follow so we can be consistent."