County allocates 2-percent tourism dollars

The Coupeville Chamber of Commerce scored the lion’s share of the county’s basic 2 percent hotel-motel tax revenues for 2016, garnering $26,450 for use at its visitors’ center, according to a document approved Tuesday by the Board of Island County Commissioners. The 2 percent basic county hotel-motel tax revenues are earmarked for use promoting tourism. The Coupeville chamber’s 2016 take was roughly the same as in 2015.

In a surprise development, the Greater Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce won a last-minute reprieve from being sliced to the bone. As Tuesday’s meeting began, it was allocated only $2,581, to underwrite an ice-skating event next winter. But during the meeting, the commissioners unanimously agreed to give it another $25,000. It had sought $31,000. In 2015 it got $30,000.

An advisory committee had repeatedly recommended giving Oak Harbor’s chamber its full $31,000, but the commissioners, after puzzling over the law, Tuesday moved to cut the amount.

Commissioner Helen Price Johnson cited legal authority forbidding the board from changing the amount an advisory committee has decided should be awarded to a recipient. But the board had also heard from its legal counsel, the prosecuting attorney’s office, that it was free to change amounts.

“If that’s the legal advice we’ve been given, I’m happy to follow it,” said Commissioner Jill Johnson. “I trust our prosecutor, and I’m sure he would not give us bad advice.”

Added Commissioner Rick Hannold, “They don’t have a good track record,” referring to the prosecutor’s office.

The commissioners agreed to continue talking with the prosecutor’s office and with the chamber, with which the board’s relationship lately has been uneasy. Christine Cribb, the chamber’s executive director, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

Other big winners in 2016 were the Greater Freeland Chamber of Commerce, getting $25,188 toward its information center and visitor kiosk; and the Langley Chamber of Commerce, getting $24,438 toward its visitor center and event management.

Other grantees are the Camano Arts Association, $2,975 toward the 2016 studio tour; the Camano Island Chamber of Commerce, $25,075 toward the visitor information center and the winter festivals; the City of Oak Harbor, $2,750 toward the 2016 marathon; the Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association, $3,000 toward Musselfest 2016; and the Deception Pass Park Foundation, $8,100 toward Deception Pass Bridge branding and marketing.

Also the Island County Historical Society Museum, $13,476 toward tourism promotion; Island County Parks, $7,000 toward portable-toilet rentals; Island County Public Works/Parks, $12,000 toward the Four Springs Lake Preserve; Meerkerk Rhododendron Gardens, $3,688 toward the “Four Seasons at Meerkerk” program; the Oak Harbor Music Festival, $11,458; and the PBY Memorial Foundation, $5,925 toward marketing and operations.

Also the Pacific Northwest Art School, $4,625 to reach off-island students; the Trust Board of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, $15,000 toward a visitors’ center, printed guides and public programs; Whidbey Island Bicycle Club, $1,675 toward the Mussels in the Kettles ride; and the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, $3,121 for production costs.

Some 2016 allocations decreased from 2015’s, when a pot of $220,000 was available. The City of Oak Harbor’s 2016 take decreased 60 percent, from $7,000 in 2015.

Allocations increased slightly over 2015 for Island County Parks, Meerkerk Rhododendron Gardens, the PBY Memorial Foundation and the Trust Board of Ebey’s Landing Historical Reserve. All the other 2016 allocations were more or less equal to 2015’s.

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