Pocahontas Commission Project Priorities and Hotel Occupancy Tax Proposals
In addition to the items handled at the Pocahontas County Commission’s February 7th meeting, which we covered in part one of this story, the commission’s priorities for their proposed projects and several proposals for changes to the way the proceeds from the Hotel Occupancy Tax -better known as the Hotel/Motel Tax -are distributed.
During the regular meeting, Commissioner Jamie Walker laid out how he views these priorities should be.
“Well in my opinion” said Walker, “from the input I have gotten from the community, there aren’t a shadow of a doubt that the EMS is number 1. The water and sewer coming from the hospital through the Buckeye-Beards Heights area, is definitely in my opinion number 2. The 911 Center, with the storage area for the ambulances, is definitely number 3. And the Annex is put on the bottom at number 4. That’s my input from the county.”
Commission President Helmick immediately jumped in and said he agreed the ambulance crisis and staffing county ambulances is a very important project, but seemed to dispute that the courthouse annex should be the lowest priority.
“There is money to do the Annex -two or three different ways and I just don’t feel prepared to explain this, “said Helmick. “We have the money for it, but we could also shift that money to the hospital if necessary. The reason we are talking about the annex is the State Supreme Court is going to require us -and they need to come here and explain it -but they are going to require us to change a lot of this building. Coming in this building you’re not going to be able to come through that main door. We’re going to funnel everyone through one section, which is probably down here on this side lane. They will funnel everybody through there -it is near the elevator, but there will be nobody coming through the front door.”
Helmick went on to say this was being done for safety from gun violence and also for fire safety. He said we would then need to move the Magistrates, and he wants to move them to a new annex which would also include the Family Court -now located across the street. Helmick said the annex would also be used to store the County Clerk’s records and deeds as well as house law enforcement.
Immediately after the regular meeting, the commissioners opened a work session to discuss proposals for changing the way the proceeds from the Hotel/Motel Tax should be distributed.
Commissioner John Rebinski offered his proposal which would:
- Provide $170,000 off the top of the remaining Hotel/Motel Tax Revenues – after 50% of the gross revenues are given to the CVB as provided by law – to start up the Pocahontas County Paid Ambulance Service.
- increase the fixed payment to the Fire Board from $60,000 to $120,000
- Keep the current fixed payments to the Hospital, the EMS Board, And Bricks & Mortars
- Provide a onetime $50,000 for a Sheriff Cruiser and trailer.
Regarding the percentages of the remaining money organizations receive, Rebinski’s proposal
- Eliminate the 3% that the Artisan’s Coop receives entirely; (for a new total of 0%)
- Take 1/2% from Preserving Pocahontas’ current 3% (for a new total of 2.5%.)
- Take 1/2% and from the Arts Council’s current 4% (for a new total of 3.5%.)
- Add 1% to Historic Landmarks’ current 5% (for a new total of 6%.)
- Add 2% to Dramas, Fairs & Festivals current 20% (for a new total of 22%.)
- Take 2% from Parks and Recreation’s current 33% (for a new total of 31%.)
- Take 2% from the libraries current 32% (for a new total of 30%.)
He would also add a new beneficiary – 5% for County Commission H/M projects.
Commissioner Jamie Walker offered his own counter proposal:
- Increase Rebinski’s $170,000 for the ambulance service to $200,000
- Reduce the current $30,000 the Bricks & Mortars receives to $25,000.
- Keep the Hospital, Fire board and EMS Board the same as they currently receive.
Walker’s proposal would also keep the current percentages for the 7 organizations that currently receive percentages, and not add any additional beneficiaries to this.
Additionally, Walker offered ideas for the new EMS Ambulance Service:
- Hire 2 crews working back-to-back 12 hour shifts with 24/7 coverage.
- Estimates 1 million dollar cost with $200,000 of that coming from the Hotel/Motel Tax revenues -based upon the extra calls generated by tourists.
- This leaves the County Commission to come up with the remaining $800,000 to start and run the county ambulances in the entire county.
Walker estimated the rates of pay, based on pay rates in nearby counties, would be:
- 4 EMT’s @ $17.00 per hour
- 4 paramedics @ $20.00 per hour.
- 8 drivers @ $14.00 per hour
- 4 part-time positions @ $18.00 per hour. (to cover when full-time staff are not available.)
There were no decisions made regarding either the Hotel/Motel Tax distribution proposals or the funding of the new ambulance service, only discussion.