County commissioners create Hotel Occupancy Tax board
Houston County Courier
By Lynda Jones
The topic of the Houston County Tourism Bureau and the approval of funds for website development resurfaced during the Friday, Oct. 11 meeting of the Houston County Commissioners Court. During Friday's meeting, the commissioners court unanimously voted to establish and recognize a Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) Board comprised of Houston County hotel and motel owners. County Judge Erin Ford said all hotel and motel owners in the county were invited to an organizational meeting and that four owners accepted the invitation. Ford and County Auditor Melissa Mosley reported they met with the owners of the Crockett Family Resort, the Crockett Inn, the Embers Motor Inn and the Holiday Inn Express. Mosley said the group had a very good discussion about the actual process of when the commissioners court first started collecting the Hotel Occupancy Tax in 2009. "Basically the whole premise is they are going to be your people that are on the front line and give you recommendations," Mosley explained. "They know they don't have the final decision. They know they don't have the final say." Mosley continued, "What they want to do is do the advertisements; get those people that can do a website to come to their next quarterly meeting and present to them what it's going to look like. They're going to be very hands-on. They're very excited about all this." Mosley said the hotel/ motel owners initially were concerned about the time required of them, but she explained that since it is county money, her office, the county judge's office and the commissioners if they so choose will be involved so the work is shared between the new HOT Board and county officials. "They're going to set up a structure," Mosley explained further. "They want to be able to pay for (promotional) items at our various festivals, and then they'll track that information . . . (to determine how many people come and stay overnight)." The board will use expenditures at the various festivals to bring tourism in, thus bringing in more HOT funds, according to Mosley. According to figures provided by Mosley at the meeting, there was a total of $154,642.25 in the Houston County Hotel/Motel Tax Fund. The fund began in October 2009. In addition to establishing the HOT Board, another agenda item for the commissioners court meeting was to "consider request for quotation for tourism website to be offered to qualified bidders". Ford said this would be an expenditure to cover the cost of advertising for bids. Pct. 2 Commissioner Willie Kitchen posed the question of whether the commissioners court first should rescind its July 23 vote approving funds requested by the Houston County Tourism Bureau for website development by a particular company. Mosley explained that in July the commissioners approved "a company to do a website. We never got an actual contract. . . . It also had in there (submitted proposal) it would be an agent for the tourism board, and you know the tourism board was never created to begin with and that caused a problem. Yes, I think you should rescind it next time. It needs to be an agenda item." The commissioners court then unanimously voted to table this vote on the website quotation request until the next meeting after they have a chance to rescind their July 23 vote.