Supervisors deadlock on tourism proposal
ATHENS TOWNSHIP - Once again, Bradford County Commissioners made a heartfelt plea to officials hoping to rally support for their Bradford County Tourism and Promotion agency plan; and once again, so did Jean Ruhf, executive director of the Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau (EMVB) in asking officials to vote against it.
After both sides delivered concise ten minute presentations at the Wednesday night meeting, the Athens Township Supervisors conducted a vote on the resolution, which resulted in a two to two split vote.
While Supervisors Sue Seck and Christine Vough voted to split from the EMVB, the other two present supervisors, Ronald Reagan and Cheryl Wood-Walter, cast their votes to continue the present representation with the Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau.
Wood-Walter in particular questioned the motives behind the sudden move to split with the EMVB, asking Bradford County Commissioners Daryl Miller and Doug McLinko, "Why now?" Wood-Walter also brought up her concerns that Commissioner Miller, who sits on the EMVB board of directors, was not attending these meetings. "Why haven't you been renegotiating some of these thingsâ¦why are you diving into this now?"
Miller responded that he is the only commissioner on a "20 some member board," and he wasn't "going to make any difference." Commissioner McLinko followed Miller's comments with his own response. Regarding their empty seat at the board of directors, McLinko said, "I've lost faith."
Miller went on to state that he is disappointed in the presence that Bradford County has in the EMVB business plan. He criticized the Bradford County business listings on the EMVB website stating, "to only have five restaurants represented in a county this size, when there are over 20 right here in the valley area." Miller went on to say, "there are no gas stations, no grocery storesâ¦this didn't just happen in the last couple of years, this has been going on for a long, long time." He concluded his response to Wood-Walter's question, "these are the reasons we want to take the money that's derived here, in Bradford County, and use it to promote Bradford County and the businesses in Bradford County."
Elaborating on the comments of Commissioner Miller, McLinko stated that this is not a new problem. "Bradford County has an image problem and the eyes of the nation are on the Marcellus," he said. The commissioners are in agreement that the best way to handle the perceived image problem is to create a better "brand" where Bradford County is concerned.
When questioned again by supervisors whether this resolution to split with the EMVB was just about the money generated by the hotel tax, the commissioners say firmly, no. They agree that the revenue from the hotel tax should be spent primarily in Bradford County, but in the larger sense, the resolution constitutes a sound business decision.
Bradford County collects a three percent Hotel Occupancy Tax on every room rental in the county. Of that total number, two percent comes right off the top and is taken in as revenue by the county. After that two percent, the EMVB splits the money with 70 percent used for tourism and promotion for the entire organization, while the remaining 30 percent of the funds are earmarked for Bradford County room tax grant program recipients.
If the resolution passes in 51 percent of the municipalities in the county, the commissioners will begin the establishment of the Bradford County Tourism and Promotion agency. This agency will then solely govern the use of the funds and be responsible for the advertising and promotion of the county.
Alexis Bortle may be reached at (570) 888-9652; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.