County approves funds to be used to advertise the City of Marion

The Marion County Commission unanimously approved giving the Marion Merchants’ Association about two-thirds of its request for money from the transient guest tax at the Monday regular meeting.

Tammy Ensey, owner of the Elgin Hotel and spokesperson for the association, asked the commission for $15,375 to market specifically the city of Marion using television advertising, highway signage and a brochure.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said the reason why he would approve only a portion, which was $10,000 toward the project, was so that the commission could better find out more on how the guest tax receives its money and to further discuss the issue.

After some discussion, and approval of $10,000, the commission made assurances that when a plan was in place to assist the other smaller towns in the county, the association’s request would be revisited.

Commissioner Dianne Novak said she wasn’t opposed to the idea but was concerned that, once again, not all the facts are available, and more information was needed before approving the request.

Commission chairman Kent Becker agreed with Dallke saying he had no reservations on giving the association the entire $15,375 but was willing to go along with $10,000 and further discussion.

Transient guest tax is a tax imposed on guests of hotels or other lodging facilities, and also known as a bed tax, hotel occupancy tax or motel tax.

Ensey cited reasons for the transient guest tax to include the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, located in the Flint Hills region north of Strong City, adding it’s the country’s only national park dedicated to the Tallgrass Prairie.

“It’s not in our county, but it’s only 20 miles and we have a lot of people stay in the hotel because of this,” she said.

The association wants to market a “Marion Experience,” encapsulating all the unique features of the city, and starting the process is television advertising, she said.

One of the main reasons for television was because of news highlights on KSN and the Main Street features, Ensey said, which increased her business.

“We saw a great return on this,” she said. “And so, CB Baked Goods, FamLee Bakery, Tampa State Bank, Fay Chiropractic, St. Luke Hospital, Dorothy’s Coffee House and Tea Room, and the Elgin Hotel are all committed to KSN for six months.”

The television advertising expense totals $12,000 or $2,000 each month for six months, she said.

Two other smaller pieces include signage and the brochure, she said.

Ensey said that with the guest tax at about $50,000, she estimated the Elgin Hotel over the past two years has contributed about $25,000 of that amount.

The brochure, she said, will be specifically highlighted the city of Marion, and currently there isn’t a brochure marketing that one segment.

“The cost to create, print and distribute 2,000 copies of the brochure is $3,000,” she said.

Becker asked Tina Spencer, county clerk, about the guest tax, and how it can be used and if all the items fall in line with requirements.

Spencer said, “All the guest taxes are to be used for tourism. The money in the tax is generated from overnight facilities and hotels, and all the expenses would qualify.

“We do need to come up with some sort of a system so that if people want to request those funds for their communities—that’s what they are for.”

Novak was concerned about the other cities, citing Hillsboro.

Spencer said Hillsboro has their own guest tax dollars being collected for their community.

“(Ensey) had a good point that her business specifically has generated a good portion of the tax we currently have,” Spencer said.

Ensey said she also had Novak’s concerns but believes there will be items included in the brochure to include the Hillsboro museum, antique shops, and other attractions.

Randy Collett, Marion City economic development director, added that the guest tax account has been gathering money for many years, and requests for Florence’s Labor Day, for Ramona’s Red Neck or Lincolnville’s Fall Festival have not come close to the amount of contributions that have been going into the account.

Dallke said: “It’s true the money is collected here, but what is bringing people here to stay in the (hotel). Peabody and Florence don’t have motels, and it may bring business to you. I think we need to keep an open look as to why people are here.”

In other business, the commission:

– approved transport fuel bid from Epp’s Service, Elbing, at $18,848.50. The other bidder was Cooperative Grain and Supply, Hillsboro, with a bid of $18,857.50.

– asked Jesse Hamm, director of Road and Bridge department, about FEMA and flooding on roads in the county. Hamm said he and Randy Frank, emergency management, were expected to meet with FEMA representatives May 21.

– heard from Dallke regarding conditions of in the southern part of the county where riprap (bridge abutments or man-placed rock) are now 50 to 100-feet down the creek or further at drawbridges. His concern is how many of these areas could be washed away. Hamm said he wanted blades to go out, but it takes time to measure ruts, etc., before trying to fix it. With FEMA it is a process, he said. In addition, Hamm said he was ready to take on two projects, but was told to stop by Frank because FEMA needs proof at the actual site.

– heard also from Dallke and his appreciation for the grader operators in the southeast corner of the county because of the rocky conditions in that area.

– approved write-offs by EMS in the amount of $5,243.

– heard from Travis Parmley, EMS director, who asked the commission to approve write-offs in the amount of $5,243. In addition, he wanted to thank everyone for attending the EMS open house this past weekend. “We had a lot of good support,” Parmley said. The commission also commended the EMS personnel, and Mike Beneke, a local citizen, for his donations, and Atmos for donating a large cooker for hamburgers.

– learned from Jeannine Batemen, treasurer, that 93 percent of taxes have already been collected. collected 93 percent of taxes.

– heard from Novak regarding a bill for almost $10,000, which was for services from the county’s attorney, Pat Hughes, handling wind farm legal issues. In addition, she said it was “outrageous” that 29 hours were billed either by the director of Planning and Zoning, county clerk, Expedition Wind and Pat Pelstring or a combination of those through telephone calls, emails, conference calls, or in-person. It was concerning, she said, because the commission has no idea what was discussed during those communications with one or more of those individuals mentioned.

Written By
More from Patty Decker
Marion reaches facility agreement for new business
The Marion City Council approved a lease-purchase agreement at its April 11...
Read More