Arlington council approves $160K to fund tourism-related activities

ARLINGTON – The City Council on Monday approved $160,000 for tourism-related projects that will support the annual Fly-In, enrich the arts community, keep summer music alive in Legion Park and back annual downtown business events.

The council had been presented with two funding options.

Option A was the council’s proposal last December that sought changes to the lodging tax advisory committee’s original list of recipients.

The council changes triggered a 45-day window requiring another public hearing, while the lodging committee used the time to interview applicants again and compile an updated set of recommendations.

Option B contained the committee’s latest recommendations, which would have cut back some applicant dollars to fund a chamber coupon book and costs related to a proposed pocket park downtown.

Under the approved option A, the following recipients were funded:

* $40,000, Stillaguamish Valley Genealogical Society for a Northwest Genealogy Conference;

* $30,000, Arlington Fly-In;

* $20,000, Arlington Arts Council to enhance art and music;

* $20,328, Downtown Arlington Business Association annual events;

* $14,000, Arlington-Smokey Point Chamber of Commerce, Visitors Information Center;

* $7,900, Arlington Parks and Recreation, summer outdoor recreation series;

* $6,000, city Parks, Olympic Avenue sound system (phase II);

* $5,000, chamber, 4th of July Grand Parade;

* $4,950, chamber, Cascade Loop membership;

* $4,800, city Parks; Arlington-Stillaguamish Eagle Festival;

* $4,522, Arlington Rotary toward 4th of July fireworks display; and

* $2,500, Vision for a Cure, Arlington Brew Fest.

Jesica Stickles, liaison to the lodging tax committee who cast the lone dissenting council vote in support of the committee’s recommendations, said the chamber coupon book would have helped promote return visits by, for example, targeting Centennial Trail cyclists who could have picked them up at the visitor center.

The committee had a difficult task in making sure the distributions followed state law, met criteria outlined in the application and were within the budget. State law says that “cities must estimate the number of tourist, persons traveling over 50 miles, and lodging stays generated by each event, festival and tourism-related facility.”

The lodging tax totals are based on revenues from the 2 percent state tax on lodging. It is a consumer tax on lodging charges for periods of less than 30 consecutive days for hotels, motels, private campgrounds, RV parks and similar facilities.

Funds can be used for tourism marketing, marketing and operations of special events and festivals designed to attract tourists. Funds are paid on a reimbursement basis.

While the mayor and council praised the lodging tax committee, the original recommendations forwarded last fall hadn’t quite sat well with council members, nor some recipients who questioned the city’s new application process. Council and staff agreed that many lessons were learned and additions will be made in the next round of applications.

For example, each specific event or project must be applied for separately, a 33 percent match is required by the applicant, and an orientation will be held to better explain the lodging tax funding process and city’s tourism goals. The council also plans to add the topic to the agenda for its next retreat.

In other council business:

* Council awarded a $19,090 contract to Shockey Planning Group to work with city staff to incorporate Water, Sewer and Transportation plans into the Arlington’s General Comprehensive Plan. Scope of work also includes support to have the transportation plan reviewed and approved by the Puget Sound Regional Council.

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