Pocahontas Commissioners Vote Minor Changes to Hotel/Motel Tax Distributions
During a contentious February 6th, 2024 Pocahontas County Commission Meeting, the commissioners, with three exceptions, voted to maintain the same 2023 formulas for the distributions of 2024 revenues received from the Hotel Occupancy Tax, which commonly is referred to as the Hotel/Motel Tax.
Last year, after a series of regular and special hotly-debated meetings, led by a proposal of Commissioner John Rebinski, the commissioners removed the Artisans Coop from receiving any of the Hotel/Motel Tax revenues, and decreased the percentages from several other groups, including the libraries and Parks and Recreation, and capped the amount all groups can receive. They also set aside $200,000 of these tax revenues to start up the paid County Ambulance Service in the northern part of the county. They doubled the amount of money the Fire Board received, kept the current fixed payments to the Hospital ($75,000) and to EMS ($50,000,) reduced the amount the Bricks and Mortars Fund received from the $30,000 it received in 2022 down to $25,000 in 2023, and they pulled $50,000 out of the tax revenues to buy the Sheriff’s Office a cruiser and a trailer.
This year, despite spirited objections from Lauren Bennet of Parks and Recreation, they voted to leave the same percentages and caps on the organizations, but reduced the Bricks and Mortars share by another $5000, down to $20,000; and increased the amount the County Ambulance Service will receive from $200.000 to $275,000, with the extra $75,000 to be saved towards the purchase of a new ambulance in 2026. They also eliminated the $50,000 to the Sheriff’s Department since they have already bought their new cruiser and trailer with last year’s money.
Alan Johnson suggested that they should either put an ambulance levy on the November ballot, or impose a county-wide ambulance fee to pay for the Ambulance Service, instead of taking the $275,000 from the Hotel/Motel Tax money. Rebinski said he would recommend that the commission look into placing the levy on the ballot, but didn’t favor imposing a fee since the people should decide on passing or rejecting a levy during the election. He also rejected the idea of removing the $275,000 from this year’s Hotel/Motel Tax distribution to the Ambulance Authority.
The possible demolition of the Old Tannery Office Building in Frank was also discussed. At the January 18, 2024 Special Commission meeting, while discussing the clean-up project at that property, it was suggested that perhaps it would be best to demolish the old Howes Tannery Office Building because it is damaged and has no purpose, despite three years of failed efforts by local organizations to transform it into a tannery museum. JoAnn Gilardi, supported by Sam Lynne Peck, Dallas VanDevender, Jason Bauserman, and Jimmy Harman, presented the commissioners with a petition signed by 196 people opposing the demolition of the office building. Commission President Helmick gave the Upper Pocahontas County Cooperative (UPCC) until April to come up with a workable plan to turn that building into a museum or find another practical use for it. The UPCC is planning to hold a meeting to discuss this at the Durbin Library at 6:30 pm on February 13th.
There was an update about the courthouse security measures scheduled to take place in a month or two. After it goes into effect, the public will only be able to enter the courthouse through the basement door to the right of the main entrance, and will have to go through metal detector and X-Ray screening. The equipment is already in place and they only have to hire guards. Employees will have key cards to enable them to still use other doors which will have electronic locks.
Additionally, the commissioners:
- Signed off on the Local Emergency Planning Committee’s Award.
- Approved $126,575.81 budget amendment and a draw down Request from the ARC Broadband Grant.
- Contributed $2,500 to the Northern Pocahontas County Community Assistance, Inc.
- Adopted the Emergency Absentee Voting Policy for the May 14th primary election.
- Agreed to advertise for a Floodplain Manager for the county.
- And approved the hiring of Brian Fedak as a part-time ambulance Driver at $13.00 per hour.