Morning Sun
  • County commission hikes hotel tax

  • In a few months it will cost a little more for a visitor to Crawford County to stay in a local hotel or motel.

    Crawford County Commissioners approved a request Tuesday by B.J. Harris, County Convention and Visitors Bureau director to raise the county’s transient guest tax by 2 percent, from 4 to 6 percent.

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  • In a few months it will cost a little more for a visitor to Crawford County to stay in a local hotel or motel.
    Crawford County Commissioners approved a request Tuesday by B.J. Harris, County Convention and Visitors Bureau director to raise the county’s transient guest tax by 2 percent, from 4 to 6 percent.
    He said that the current 4 percent tax on a $70 motel room  would bring in $2.80, while the 6 percent tax would bring in an additional $1.40 for a total of $4.20.
    The 4  percent transient guest tax brought in $192,694 in 2011. At 6 percent, it would have brought an additional $96,348 for a total of $289,042.
    Harris said that 1 percent of the increase would go to toward the proposed Pittsburg State University Indoor Event Facility, and the remainder would help support future projects by increasing marketing to compete statewide and regionally, increase the grant program for local projects and assist in the execution of large events such as the Kansas Shrine Bowl and SAE-Baja.
    “This will give us the opportunity to compete statewide in travel/tourism,” Harris said. “It will help us throw our hat in the ring. This facility will put us on track to do indoor track and field events. We could host events at times that we can’t do now.”
    Commissioner Linda Grilz told of an out-of-town family friend who has a son in high school, an up-and-coming pole vaulter.
    “Because of this event facility, that young man is now looking at coming to PSU,” she said.
    Commissioner Carl Wood asked if the facility would be limited to use by the university, or if  it could be used for community events as well.
    “PSU has always been accepting to have community using its facilities,” Harris said.
    Shawn Naccarato, PSU director of government and community relations, pointed out that there is already a joint-use facility on the university campus. It is the Army National Guard Armory/Recreation Center.
    Wood also wanted to make clear to county taxpayers that the tax increase will not come from their property tax.
    “This is the motel tax, and unless you stay in a motel, you don’t have a dime in this,” he said. “Bottom line, this is an investment for the whole community. When people come here for an event, they’ll buy gas and food.”
    The event facility is part of a PSU capital improvement will also include renovation of the Weede Physical Education Complex and the proposed Fine and Performing Arts Center.
    “The direct economic impact on all three in Crawford County will be $9 million over the next 20 years,” Naccarato said. “The direct impact for the City of Pittsburg over the next 20 years  will be $27 million.”
    He said they will be approaching the City of Pittsburg Nov. 27 to ask for a major investment in the project.
    Page 2 of 3 - “We have private support if the city supports this,” Naccarato said.
    Grilz said that the Fine and Performing Arts Center has been needed for many years.
    “All three of these are completely different, but they complement each other in so many ways,” she said. “We really need this expansion. When you host the Shrine Bowl, it’s not just a football game.”
    Grilz said that many people think economic development means giving land to a large factory, but that isn’t necessarily the case.
    “I love thinking outside the box and partnerships,” she said. “I think our development will be piecemeal, and if one thing fails, the others will make up for it.”
    Commissioners asked Naccarato when work was due to start.
    “We hope to start construction on the indoor event facility next year, but I’m just not quite sure about that,” he said. “I am confident in saying that construction will start in two or three years.”
    Blake Benson, president of the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce, and LaWana Esch, chairman of the Convention and Visitors Board, were also present in support of the proposed tax increase.
    Esch, who has made her career in the hospitality industry, said she felt the increase would be a good thing.
    “I can’t see a down side to this,” Grilz said, and then made a motion that commissioners approve the increase.
    Jim Emerson, county counselor, said that he will need to draw up a charter resolution to put the transient tax increase into place.
    “I believe we could be able to start collecting it by February or March,” he said.
    In other business, the commissioners voted to increase from 25 percent to 50 percent the county’s contribution toward the cost of a new elevator in the Crawford County Courthouse.
    Sandy Erbe, planning and development consultant with the Southeast Kansas Regional Planning Commission, is preparing another application for a Kansas Small Cities Community Development Block Grant to help pay for the cost of replacing the old elevator, which is antiquated and does not meet ADA requirements.
    An earlier grant application was rejected, and one factor may have been that the county had pledged to cover only 25 percent of the cost, which was the minimum amount required.
    “I think we need to increase our contribution,” said Tom Ragonese, county special projects director. “I think if we get somewhere near 50 percent, we could come closer to getting the grant.”
    He had a copy of the architect’s plan for the replacement and what it would cost. The last grant listed the elevator replacement cost as $292,000. New cost is $330,717.
    “Part of that is inflation, and part of it is that the judge read in the newspaper that we’re wanting to replace the elevator and she asked if we could put a back door for use in bringing in prisoners without having to take them into the public,” Ragonese said.
    Page 3 of 3 - Wood suggested that prisoners be brought in through the south courthouse door and then through the new back door to prevent prisoners having any contact with the public.
    “We have had some small things happen that they had to taser somebody,” Ragonese said. “Using the south door and having a back door to the elevator would solve a problem.”
    Erbe said that she would get the new grant application out by Thursday.
    The county’s portion of the cost will be around $165,350, which is not small change. However, Ragonese believes it’s still the best way to go if it results in the county getting the grant to pick up the other half of the expense.
    “If that old elevator goes out tomorrow, we are looking at big bucks,” he said.
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