Commissioners Joan Robinson-McMillen, chair, and John A. Sobel favored awarding $6,847 to the Clearfield YMCA. Commissioner Mark B. McCracken cast the only nay vote. All three commissioners favored awarding $4,000 to the BRA.
Prior to voting on the Clearfield YMCA request, Robinson-McMillen said County Solicitor Kim Kesner had reviewed state statues for the usage of Hotel Tax funding. She said there were six items it could be used for and four of them specified for tourism-related marketing and promotion.
However, she said the other two items gave discretion, especially the fifth. She said that one particularly covers projects and programs that are directly and substantially related to the county’s tourism.
She said she’s familiar with the Clearfield YMCA events, noting its state-of-the-art facilities make it a tourism destination in Clearfield County. She said it’s an attractive venue for many events, which couldn’t be hosted by another YMCA in the county.
Sobel said he’d also been approached by the BRA, and its members would like to renovate a cabin at the rock park. He said once renovated the BRA would have an administrative center, meeting area and classroom, which would enhance it as a tourism destination in Clearfield County.
According to him, the BRA would need $7,000 for its renovations to the cabin. In addition, he said members understood the county wasn’t likely to award it the entire amount. He then suggested the county award $4,000 for the BRA project.
McCracken said he’s discussed the potential of a third funding request with a member of the Houtzdale Rails to Trails Committee, which would like to expand its trail. He turned to Kesner for further interpretation about whether or not the Clearfield YMCA project qualified for Hotel Tax funding.
“Again, there’s a separating factor here,” said McCracken. “Bilger’s Rocks and Rails to Trails are completely free, tourist-type attractions. The YMCA is a good facility with good programs but is membership-based. I just don’t think that buying bleachers is the same as the other two projects.”
Kesner said he had provided the commissioners with the state’s Hotel Tax statutes and standards, and there isn’t any further decisional authority to define if it’s a direct and substantial influence on tourism. Kesner said private –versus-public isn’t the only factor, and a facility can be private so long as it enhances tourism.
Sobel said he understood McCracken’s standpoint; however, the Clearfield YMCA request was for bleachers for the pool area. He said these would be utilized for events that would be open to non-members free of charge, which in his opinion, fulfilled the Hotel Tax funding standard.
Sobel then motioned to approve the Clearfield YMCA request, which gained a second from Robinson-McMillen. Sobel said he previously wanted to abstain from voting on this request due to perceived conflict of interest. However, Sobel said his involvement at the Clearfield YMCA is strictly as a volunteer, and he doesn’t gain from it financially.
Sobel and Robinson-McMillen said they would both be interested in entertaining the funding request for the Houtzdale Rails to Trails project.