Clallam County commissioners approve lodging tax grants

Clallam County commissioners have approved a series of hotel/motel tax expenditures and behavioral health contracts for 2021.

The largest of the 19 expenditures was a $500,000 agreement with Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau to promote year-round tourism.

Commissioner Randy Johnson, who chairs the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, said the nonprofit Visitor Bureau reduced its annual funding request because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I continue to believe that it’s very essential for the county to continue to invest in tourism/marketing, but they also recognize the shortfall that we had due to funding,” Johnson said during the commissioners’ Jan. 5 meeting.

Funding for the lodging tax grants comes from the county’s “heads in beds” tax. The tax is taken as a credit against the 6.5 percent state sales tax on overnight stays in unincorporated areas.

The county-administered grants are used for events or projects that put heads in beds by encouraging more stays in Clallam County.

The Lodging Tax Advisory Committee recommended the grants by a unanimous vote on Dec. 10, Johnson said.

The expenditures include $150,000 for public works to improve the Olympic Discovery Trail and $39,000 for Parks, Fair and Facilities’ marketing and promotional efforts, site improvements and staff support.

“I’m very appreciative of the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee continuing to recognize the Olympic Discovery Trail as a wonderful venue for our county related to tourism,” Johnson said last week.

The Olympic Discovery Trail is being expanded in Clallam and Jefferson counties and will eventually connect Port Townsend to La Push.

In related action, commissioners authorized lodging tax expenditures of $100,000 to the Lincoln Park BMX Association, $35,000 to the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce, $12,500 to the Port Angeles Marathon Association and $10,000 to the Juan de Fuca Festival.

“I’ve got to tell you, this is very necessary,” Johnson said in a Dec. 28 work session.

“We were not able to fund some others, and several others did not meet our criteria.”

The Lincoln Park BMX Association will use the $100,000 grant for infrastructure improvements at the outdoor track in west Port Angeles, Johnson said.

The chamber will use the $35,000 grant for the Port Angeles Winter Ice Village, which has been moved from December to March due to COVID-19 precautions.

“The (Port Angeles) Marathon Association and Juan de Fuca (Festival) are also two entities that have been short of revenue due to COVID-19,” Johnson said in the work session.

The lodging tax expenditures are separate from the “Keeping the Lights On” grants that dozens of tourism-based nonprofits received last year during the coronavirus pandemic. Johnson said it was “too early to say” how much lodging tax revenue would be available in 2021.

“We’re going to revisit that in March,” Johnson said last week.

Meanwhile, commissioners on Jan. 5 approved 12 contracts worth a combined $861,299 to provide behavioral health services to county residents.

The county-administered state funding was awarded to West End Outreach Services, Peninsula Behavioral Health, Serenity House of Clallam County, city of Port Angeles, Olympic Peninsula Community Clinic, Reflections Counseling Services and First Step Family Support Center.

In other Jan. 5 meeting action, Mark Ozias was reelected chair of the board and Johnson was reelected vice chair of the three-member Board of County Commissioners.

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