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Tourism authority changes subcommittees

Tourism authority changes subcommittees

Based on recommendations from a consultant, the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority voted to change the makeup of the 1 percent funding subcommittees in Maggie Valley and Waynesville.

The TDA collects a 4 percent occupancy tax on overnight lodging in the county to use toward promoting and marketing the county as a tourism destination. While 3 percent goes into one pot to market the county as a whole, the other 1 percent goes into a separate pot specifically designated for reinvestment into tourism-related projects within the zip code in which it was collected.

Each Haywood County municipality and Lake Junaluska have a 1 percent funding subcommittee whose job it is to review grant funding applications from its zip code and make funding recommendations to the TDA board before final approval.

These subcommittees were created in 2007 — with three people serving on the subcommittees in Canton, Clyde and Lake Junaluska and five members serving in Maggie Valley and Waynesville. Since it’s becoming more difficult to find qualified people to serve on those committees for three-year terms, Consultant Chris Cavanaugh with Magellan Strategy Group recommended the TDA board either do away with the subcommittees or restructure them to make the overall process easier. He said the legislation establishing the additional 1 percent didn’t specify that subcommittees must be established — that’s just how the Haywood TDA and the communities decided to handle it.

The TDA finance committee reviewed all the recommendations presented by Cavanaugh and voted on a couple of important changes during a Nov. 8 meeting.

The board decided to keep the subcommittees in place but voted to reduce the number of people serving on the subcommittees in Maggie Valley and Waynesville from five to three.

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The TDA board also wanted to give more specific guidelines on who can serve on the subcommittees. Under the old rules, the only requirement to serve was a member must live within the appropriate zip code. However, the board voted Nov. 8 to require the subcommittees to be made up of a town representative recommended by the board of aldermen; a TDA board member from the zip code; and a member representing the hospitality industry in the zip code whether it be a hotel/motel owner or the owner or manager of a tourism-related business. All subcommittee members would still have to be recommended by the board of aldermen and officially approved by the county commissioners.

Maggie Valley Alderman Mike Eveland, who also serves on the TDA board, said the last few appointments have been given to the first person to raise their hand just because there’s not a lot of interest or because people had maxed out their term limits on the subcommittee. He said it’s also been difficult to get representatives who have the best interest of the entire community at heart instead of a specific organization.

“Committees have been very difficult to appoint because of the various attachments people have to different organizations or events that curb their opinion one way or another,” Eveland said.

Some people have mentioned that having a town elected official or employee on the subcommittee could be a conflict of interest since some towns apply for 1 percent funding. For example, the town of Maggie Valley has applied for grant funding for a temporary ice skating rink.

TDA Chairman Lyndon Lowe said the town rep didn’t have to be an elected official or employee — a town board can pick anyone in the community it feels is qualified to serve the town’s best interest.

The TDA board also opened up the zip code requirement by saying a subcommittee member can live in the zip code or run a business in the zip code to be able to serve. Eveland said that would allow more local businesses to have a say in the funding decisions.

Lastly, the TDA voted to hire a full-time administrative assistant position to help with administering the 1 percent grant funds as well as payroll and accounting to free up Executive Director Lynn Collins’ time to focus on other duties.

The new position, which gives the TDA four full-time staff members, was also a recommendation from Cavanaugh. The salary range is $35,000 and the hiring process will begin immediately.

“Part of the salary will come out of the 1 percent fund because a lot of the work will involve administering those grants and doing all that paper work,” Collins said. “Each zip code will pay a percentage toward it.”

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