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Commission awards restaurant tax funds

Sun Advocate community editor

Carbon lawmakers awarded county restaurant tax money to applicants during last week's commission meeting.

While many projects obtained funding, none of the applicants received the total amount of requested revenues.

"Many of these requests are asking for money for promotion," pointed Commissioner Mike Milovich. "We established some time ago that the bulk of this money should be used for brick and mortar projects. Right now, over 50 percent of the money that has been award has been for promotional parts of projects."

The commissioner's comments followed a presentation by Helper Art Festival committee member Ken Larson.

The arts festival requested $15,000 in funding and the county's restaurant tax committee recommended allocating $9,000 for the August 2004 event.

"On my desk, I have the estimates of the cost of advertising in some of the upstate magazines as well as regional art reviews. That cost last year was $6,800," stated Larson. "This year, the estimates say it will go up to about $8800."

But despite the increased promotional costs, Milovich felt the festival was getting an adequate amount of the county's restaurant tax money.

"I believe, two years ago, we gave the festival $25,000 and we warned them at that time that we would be weaning them away from that money, and we need to do that," stated he commissioner.

The commission also approved an award of $1,500 in county restaurant tax funding for the Helper Electric Light Parade as well as $8,000 for the installation of a permanent roof on the stage at the Main Street park. But the commissioners wondered whether $8,000 would be enough money for the structure.

"We also have some grant money to go with it from the Union Pacific Railroad," said Helper Mayor Joe Bonacci. "The estimate for the structure is $14,000 and we have $6,500 from them for structural improvements in that park."

The park structure is an example of what restaurant tax monies should fund, pointed out Milovich.

The stage's primary purpose is for the art festival.

In an unrelated action, the commission approved allocating $1,000 in restaurant tax revenues to the Arapeen Trail Ride despite the fact the venue for ATVs at the event in September is located in Emery County.

Proponents hope that, as the trail system develops, the ride will expand.

If the expansion materializes, business will overflow into Carbon County because Emery does not have the lodging and restaurant facilities to accommodate hundreds of riders who may participate in the event.

The proponents of the ATV event also hope that, eventually, the trail system will be extended into the Carbon area.

Another proposal to provide $1,700 for fireworks at the fairgrounds for the Independence Day celebration was also approved along with a $7,500 award for the county fair slated in early August. The county fair Board's original request was for $15,000.

Then the commission ran into two controversial requests, made so by two different sets of circumstances. The first was the request of Price City for $7,000 for the annual International Days celebration. While it has received funding year after year, the CCRTC decided to deny the request this year.

"I had a conversation with some of the board members and despite the decision, there is support to give them some money," said Commission Chairman Bill Krompel.

Burge pointed out that in his talks with them they would probably allow about $3,000. However, the reasons for their complete rejection of the funds originally were somewhat unclear.

"I think we should send this back to them and let them make another recommendation," stated Milovich. "However the money we gave them last year funded 60 percent of the operation, and I'm not sure that is right."

The commission decided to let the CCRTC take up the issue once again.

The other controversy came over the awarding of money for billboard advertising, with the primary point of contention a sign at the mouth of Spanish Fork Canyon in Utah County.

All three of the Carbon County commissioners indicated that that the sign would probably benefit the local area significantly, but how the matter was handled was a point of contention.

Apparently, a contract with the sign company for rental and installation was signed before the CCRTC met to consider the funding request.

The county's restaurant tax committee subsequently supported funding the sign at a cost of $7,700. But the committee asked the county to pull $7,700 out of the travel and tourism bureau's budget next year to cover the expenditure because of the action.

"I don't think that travel should have to pay that back," said Burge. "I don't think the instructions on this process were crystal clear and Kathy (Smith) was acting in good faith by going ahead."

However, Milovich questioned how the situation was handled.

"Something needs to be said about signing contracts without complete approval," stated Milovich. "This backroom way of doing things needs to be addressed."

"The sign idea is good, but the vehicle that was taken to get there is not to my liking. The instructions were to buy a sign, not lease. The committee sent an e-mail in December clearing this up. Now there is a $7,700 unapproved contract," indicated Milovich.

Burge said the debate about the situation was like splitting hairs. However, Milovich pointed out that the matter involved "$7,700 worth of hairs."

In the package was also included money for the rehabilitation of the billboard for the College of Eastern Utah Prehistoric Museum sign on U.S. Highway 6 just north of Price as well as money for a new sign on Highway 10 coming in from Emery County.

Some of the total $25,450 was approved (with $4,800 going to the sign company that installed the controversial billboard in Utah county a few days before the meeting) and then the commission said they would discuss the money situation with the travel bureau at a later date.

The final recommendation of the restaurant tax committee was to award $40,873 to the Nine Mile coalition for signage and improvements in the canyon.

"Pam's (Miller) group has a plan for the canyon that will need about $186,000 in total funding," noted Milovich. "I think, with the problems that have existed up there, we need to look at fully funding that over the next year."

Problems in the canyon have included vandalism of ancient sites, traffic flow and people trespassing on private land.

"There are so many issues and problems up there and these improvements will help to solve some of those," stated Burge.

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