Franklin County established a tourism board — consisting of members living throughout the county — to discuss and make decisions and recommendations on tourism issues in the county.
That will board will have a chance to weigh in on and make a recommendation to the county commissioners about donating money to the Legacy Square project in downtown Ottawa.
The Board of Franklin County Commissioners Wednesday tabled the measure of voting to donate $125,000 of Transient Guest Tax (TGT) monies to the project until next Wednesday’s meeting. The TGT fund consists of a tax collected by area hotels and motels to be used for tourism projects.
Diana Staresinic-Deane, a member of the tourism board, told the commissioners before the decision to table the measure, that the tourism board would like an opportunity to discuss the issue at its Tuesday meeting.
“This week was the first time an actual monetary request was brought forward,” Staresinic-Deane said. “We have not had the opportunity to talk about how that funding fits in with everything else. It is an opportunity for us to weigh in and be able to present to the commissioners next week the benefits and recommendations. Ultimately the decision is theirs. They have tasked us in reviewing these [requests]. We will be able to do that. It is an exciting project.”
Susan Rader, county tourism coordinator, said giving the tourism board a chance to give a recommendation shows the commissioners support for their group.
“They feel that our opinion is important,” Rader said. “To me, that is a good way of showing the value in what we are doing. One of the criticisms we have always had is lack of transparency. Going forward, I want to make sure we have that conversation...information is free flowing.”
Randall Renoud, commission chair, was in favor of the decision to wait a week on the proposal and hear the recommendations of the tourism board.
“They have a board and a duty,” he said. “We are not under a time crunch. That is procedure. I prefer that.”
Richard Oglesby, county commissioner, concurred with Renoud.
“We authorized that board,” Oglesby said. “They are an advisory to this board and I think that [input] is what we should receive from them.”
Rick Howard, commissioner and a member of the tourism board, said going forward without hearing from them, would set a bad precedent.
“Not to have their input in this for us to make a decision would be totally wrong,” Howard said. “I am fine waiting.”
Rader said the tourism board plays an important role in the process.
“We are a diverse group from all walks of life,” Rader said. “I bring adverting, what is happening, TGT sponsorships [to them. All that is handled by that board.”
The Legacy Square project, located along Walnut Street that covers two city blocks, is spearheaded by Onward Ottawa. It features a green space of more 20,000 square feet, covered canopies, and a large covered pavilion providing outdoor event space for all manner of events including health fairs, mobile health clinics, art fairs, car shows, farmers’ markets, amenities for people using the trails, concert events, bike safety “rodeos” for young riders, competitive run/biking events, drive-through flu clinics, flea markets and holiday lighting ceremonies with music performances. The park also will potentially feature a children’s play area at the northwest corner of First and Walnut Streets.
The Flint Hills Nature Trail (FHNT) intersects with the Prairie Spirit Trail (PST) at this location and together the two trails border the new Legacy Square venue.
John Coen, Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce CEO and President, said August is the final month of the community capital campaign. He said the project raised $3.8 million towards the $4.3 millon goal as of the end of July.
He announced earlier this month Price Chopper will match their shoppers’ contribubitons through August.