City Council weighs in on $202,000 list of grants for marketing, tourism

emoody@beaufortgazette.comFebruary 25, 2014 

In three meetings Tuesday night, two city of Beaufort voting groups will discuss and vote on a number of issues, including accommodations tax grants.

STAFF ILLUSTRATION

  • In other business, council:

    • granted initial approval to ordinance changes related to critical area setbacks. A final vote is expected in March.
    • approved an agreement to take ownership of a proposed street through the Parker's development intended for Trask Parkway and Parris Island Gateway. The developer will pay the city $13,420, a rough estimate of the 20-year cost of maintaining the road.
    • granted permission for the Beaufort Farmers Market to use the pavilion in Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park from 2 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays from May to September.
    • discussed plans for Southside Park and setting aside money for improvements and a dog park
    • approved rezoning of five properties on the southern half of the 1000-block of Craven Street.
    • approved updates concerning building height restrictions in the Boundary Street Redevelopment District.
    • approved committing $264,093 for the purchase of and five years maintenance for public safety software.
    • granted initial approval to budget updates, including increases for expansion of the Beaufort Downtown Marina mooring field project. A final vote is expected in March.

Beaufort City Council is considering how to best put more than $200,000 in accommodations taxes to work drawing visitors to the area and making their stays enjoyable.

Members of the Tourism Development and Advisory Committee, along with representatives from organizations seeking grants, met with council Tuesday night to discuss those plans.

About $210,000 is available, and the committee is recommending $202,000 go to the 14 organizations that applied for money.

An accommodations tax -- also called a "bed tax" -- is a levy on overnight lodging to fund programs that promote tourism and attract visitors.

City Council will make the final determination on the awards. A date for that decision has not been announced.

Grants and projects discussed Tuesday include:

  • Main Street Beaufort, USA: website design, WiFi program and general promotion: $11,221.50 requested, $11,225 recommended.
  • The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce: Visitor Center: $40,000 requested, $30,000 recommended
  • Chamber of Commerce, elevator for Visitor Center: $30,000 requested, $20,000 recommended
  • Chamber of Commerce: general marketing: $70,000 requested, $65,475 recommended
  • Penn Center: Heritage Celebration and general marketing: $12,000 requested, $12,000 recommended
  • Beaufort County Black Chamber of Commerce: cultural marketing, Gullah Festival and Gullah Kinfolk event: $45,0000 requested, $30,000 recommended
  • ArtWorks/Arts Council: Compassion Art Series: $5,000 requested, $5,000 recommended
  • Historic Beaufort Foundation: Verdier House renovation: $4,800 requested, $4,800 recommended
  • Friends of Hunting Island: digital media tour of the city of Beaufort: $12,000 requested, $6,000 recommended
  • Lowcountry Commission: general promotion: $23,100 requested, $8,000 recommended
  • Lowcountry Habitat for Humanity: High on the Hog BBQ Festival: $2,500 requested, $2,000 recommended
  • Gen. R. H. Anderson SCV Camp #47: Civil War flag acquisition and conservation: $4,600 requested, $1,000 recommended
  • Exchange Club of Beaufort: Ghost Tour promotion: $4,500 requested, $1,500 recommended
  • Port Royal Sound Foundation: Maritime Center: $75,000 requested, $5,000 recommended

TDAC chairman Chip Dinkins also provided a more comprehensive report Tuesday from the Dec. 16 meeting with applicants.

Councilmembers raised some questions about the recommendations.

That included whether two of the grants would be going to the correct organizations.

The program director who originally applied for the Compassion Art Series on behalf of ARTworks has moved to the University of South Carolina Beaufort, according to TDAC member Gail Westerfield, who works with ARTworks.

ARTworks is not interested in hosting the series, she said, and councilmembers questioned whether the grant could go to USCB, or if the money would need to be reapplied for.

The Beaufort History Museum is working with the SCV Camp organization to acquire the Civil War flag and would display it, TDAC members said. Councilmembers asked if it would be better to give the money to the museum instead.

Proposals like the WiFi and digital tour plans were warmly received by councilmembers because they involve matching funds from private businesses. Public/private partnerships are encouraged because every grant dollar is doubled, or more, with matching funds.

"Some groups have embraced that and other groups are not yet there," Dinkins said. "...that's where that one dollar becomes two or three or four."

The elevator at the Visitors Center was likewise encouraged by councilmembers, who discussed adding money to that grant for the final recommendation. The city owns The Arsenal the center is housed in. An elevator would make the museum more accessible when it relocates from City Hall to second floor of The Arsenal in the spring.

"It's an improvement to our building that benefits two groups instead of one," Mayor Billy Keyserling said.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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*Friends of Hunting Island request is approved pending clarity on legality of the award.

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