City Council wrangles with TRT allocation plan

Hood River City Councilors met May 28 to plow through some tough issues — the likely reason behind the large audience packed into the city hall chambers.

On the agenda: an Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals remand (send-back) of the council’s decision previously approving the Naito development at the waterfront, and a Chamber of Commerce proposal addressing the potential shift in transient room tax dollars away from the Visitor Council budget.

TRT shift impacts

With the recent annexation of both the Columbia Gorge Hotel and the Vagabond Lodge into City jurisdiction, a significant change could take place in the way TRT dollars are distributed to the Chamber and its Visitor Council outreach functions.

With those properties previously under County jurisdiction, the TRT revenue was divided 90 percent to the Chamber and 10 percent to the County. The distribution formula as currently set by the City will allot 75 percent to the City and 25 percent to the Chamber. That significant drop brought out half of the evening’s audience, who uniformly offered their support of continuing current Chamber and Visitor Council activity levels.

“In real numbers, this means a reduction of approximately $90,000 per year, or nearly 25 percent of the Visitor Council’s budget,” wrote Mike Glover, Chamber executive director, in his letter to the council. The organization’s mission primarily focuses on year-round tourism promotion and marketing.

“This will drastically affect our ability to carry out our mission,” Glover said, as an introduction to providing the council with some potential solutions to maintain a workable funding situation.

“One method for accomplishing that would be to temporarily increase the amount of money allocated by the city to tourism promotion from 25 percent of total TRT collected, to 37 percent of total TRT collected. This would be phased out at the end of the third year in our proposal,” said Glover in a follow-up email.

“Another possibility for maintaining the current funding levels would be for the city to set aside a separate dollar amount for the next three years, after the end of this calendar year, to help offset the funds for tourism promotion.

“That could either be the same amount over those three years — approximately $50,000 annually — that would be matched by an equal amount of the Visitor Council reserve fund; or a sliding scale, again with the difference being covered by the reserve fund until it is depleted,” said Glover.

Although the proposals were part of a preliminary work session, the council dove in asking for additional information. Questions included: How do we know that advertising works? How do we justify promoting one industry but not another? How can we commit the TRT revenues when the City is not assured of their collection and, What is happening Gorge-wide with other tourism jurisdictions?

Glover provided an overview of the financial impact of tourism across all aspects of the local economy and several tourism-related business owners spoke out on behalf of the proposals.

The council agreed to submit a list of questions for further discussion and requested response on behalf of the Chamber.

Local business owners Stu and Kathy Watson then brought forward a proposal of their own, hoping to address the same underlying funding crisis.

“This is a good time to take a fresh look at that situation,” said Stu. “I’d like to suggest that we separate the Chamber and the Visitor’s Center and create something like: Travel Hood River.

Watson went on to suggest increasing the TRT rate charge itself.

“With a one percent increase in TRT, that could translate to about $84,000; at a 60 percent occupancy rate, that could offset a lot of that loss,” he said.

Look to upcoming city council meetings for additional fact-finding and deliberation on the topic.

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See the Wednesday edition for a summary of the Naito project LUBA remand council discussions and proposed modifications on the ordinance tied to a street vacation adjacent to the Naito development.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



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