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March 11, 2014

Council, Chamber continue tourism dispute

GREENVILLE — The Greenville City Council and the Greenville Chamber of Commerce Convention and Visitors Bureau have hit the pause button in their dispute over funding to promote local tourism.

But the issue over who will receive the funding in the future is anything but resolved.

The council voted Tuesday night to table a decision to shift the funding in-house and away from the chamber, until additional discussions can be held between the two sides.

Even so, Mayor Steve Reid said he still wanted to see the move take place in the near future.

“I would highly encourage the chamber to prepare for the funding to be moved in-house by the end of the fiscal year,” Reid said.

The vote to table the matter was 5-1, with James Evans against. Council member Dan Perkins was absent from the meeting.

In November, the council’s economic development sub-committee proposed to slash the funding the Chamber was to receive this year in order to promote local tourism.

During the December council meeting, Reid said he was not satisfied with the reporting the Chamber had provided, showing how it has spent its portion of hotel/motel taxes in the past. Reid also questioned why the Chamber was receiving so much each year.

The Chamber had requested $134,834 in tourism funding this year, although the Tourism and Convention Advisory Board had recommended the chamber receive $123,500, which is in line with the $125,000 the agency received in last year’s budget.

However, the council’s sub-committee, which includes Reid, Mayor Pro Tem Velma Del Bosque-Hobdy and Renee Francey, had recommended the chamber’s appropriation be reduced by $48,500 this year.

Under the agreement reached in January, the Convention and Visitors Bureau was to receive two payments of $30,875, after which the council and the agency were to look at the issue again.

Under the agreement, the tourism funding for the first two quarters of the current fiscal year was distributed, while a distinction would also be made making sure the funding will be provided to the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), rather than the Chamber of Commerce.

The sub-committee, which also oversees tourism funding, is now recommending the City of Greenville, rather than the Chamber of Commerce/Convention and Visitors Bureau, promote tourism and the convention and hotel industry in-house for the third and fourth quarters of the fiscal year with funding from the municipal hotel occupancy tax.

Reid said the move on the part of the sub-committee came, “in light of some activities that had occurred in the month of February” and after he had consulted with the city staff about the issue.

President/CEO Brendon J. Payne addressed the council at the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting, asking that the measure be tabled. Payne said the objective of the tourism funding was to put “heads in beds” in local hotels.

“The Chamber has a proven track record of doing just this,” Payne said, also asking the council to continue providing funding into the next quarter of the fiscal year, which begins April 1.

“And allow us the opportunity to achieve those goals,” Payne said.

Reid said he also met with Payne and Bonnie Stewart Monday morning, but was steadfast in his resolve to eventually remove the funding from the chamber’s control.

“I’m going to push toward that,” Reid said. “I think there can be a lot of improvements made. That’s where I see this going.”

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