Valleyfest Director Peggy Doering was having a hard time staying in her seat during last Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
In the minutes before the council voted on a second round of lodging tax disbursements – Valleyfest had been snubbed during the initial round for 2012 last fall – Doering could be seen moving from seat to seat and conferring with city Finance Director Mark Calhoun.
But even though she didn’t get her hoped-for $50,000, Doering still raised her arms in victory after the council agreed to give her late-summer three-day community festival a substantial award of $30,000.
“I’m thrilled,” Doering said clapping her hands after the council voted 7-0 to grant the award. She said the money would be used for advertising efforts in order to entice sponsors for the September event. “You don’t get sponsors if you don’t advertise.”
Amounts of $1,100 went to the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum, $251,720 to the Spokane Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau and $25,900 to the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center.
Valleyfest failed to gain council support last fall for lodging tax dollars – a 2-percent tax generated from overnight stays in local hotels and motels – for the first time since Spokane Valley became a city. The controversial decision centered around the idea of whether or not Valleyfest organizers could prove whether or not the event actually generated out-of-area tourists.
In February, the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee met again for a second round of funding. Only two of the five committee members – Doering and City Council Member Brenda Grassel – voted to give any funding to Valleyfest. Doering sought at least $36,000, while Grassel suggested $15,000.
Deputy Mayor Gary Schimmels initially suggested an average of all of the committee members’ suggestions, which would have given Valleyfest $10,200.
DeeDee Loberg – a Valleyfest volunteer and former candidate for City Council – suggested a greater amount be given.
“I encourage you to look closer at Valleyfest,” she said, saying the event could use the money to live up to “its full potential.”
Sally Jackson – a longtime community activist who has led previous campaigns to disincorporate the city of Spokane Valley – said the “Valley of my childhood no longer exists.”
However, she added, Valleyfest is a reminder of those days gone by and the original Hearts of Gold festival.
“I think it’s really important to the community,” Jackson said. “I think it’s something that really does encourage people to visit the Valley.”
That brought about a flurry of amended motions and discussion before the council arrived at its final allocation amounts.
Council Member Arne Woodard reminded the council that the city had already granted Valleyfest $19,000 in a previous round of city funding for economic-development efforts.
“It would be nice if it were mentioned that other money has been allocated,” Woodard said.
Mayor Tom Towey suggested giving Valleyfest $25,000 and dropping the CVB allocation to $243,000. That’s when Council Member Dean Grafos suggested the $30,000 amount for Valleyfest.
Council Member Chuck Hafner agreed with that suggestion.
“I feel Valleyfest has its place,” he said.
Council Member Ben Wick, a previous member of the Spokane County Fair, advocated bumping up the Fair request an additional $5,000 “as a compromise” and was supported.
One group that didn’t receive any funding was the Spokane Valley Arts Council, which requested $50,000 for a statue that could be placed on city property at Sprague and Thierman. However, the state auditor’s office advised that the city would need to demonstrate how the statue would generate tourism dollars.
“I think the statue would be an ineligible use for the tax money,” Calhoun told the council.
The council will adjust its budget to accommodate the $308,720 allocated Tuesday.
In other news, no members of the public spoke either for or against a new ordinance that would do away with the permitting process that allows fund-raising efforts to occur in busy intersections, most famously utilized by firefighters for the “Fill the Boot” campaign for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
The council approved the first reading of the new ordinance unanimously. A second and final reading is scheduled for April 10.
There will be no council meeting next Tuesday, April 3.