The hotel-motel tax funds that have traditionally gone to the Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce may soon be used to hire a tourism director for the city. The council has given City Manager Jim Dinley the go-ahead to pursue the matter.
A director would coordinate the efforts of local organizations such as the Downtown Development Authority, Barnhardt Circle and the Historic Society, and to pursue research grants, council member Harold Silcox said.
“The Chamber has its responsibilities, and I’m sure it’s doing the best it can. But I think we would be better served by someone more focused on Fort Oglethorpe,” Silcox said.
“I think it would benefit the city to get all entities in our area that are interested in tourism working together, as long as nobody tries to take control,” council member Jane Moye said. “I think it would be a wonderful idea.”
This is not the first time the council has considered an alternative use for its tourism funds.
At a meeting last month council member Ronnie Cobb introduced the idea of a Fort Oglethorpe Chamber of Commerce as a possible use for the old library building, but nothing official was decided on the matter.
It seems members of the council are dissatisfied with the current arrangement between the city and the Chamber of Commerce.
Fort Oglethorpe is the only local government that gives money to the Chamber. The county allows the Chamber to use The Colonnade in lieu of monetary contributions, and Ringgold spends its hotel-motel tax money on the Depot and other projects. Fort Oglethorpe gives $30,000 to $35,000 annually, Cobb said.
“I don’t think we’re getting enough bang for our buck. I don’t see anything that the Chamber has been able to help us with or been able to bring into the city,” Moye said.
“Since we increased our hotel-motel tax three to four years ago for tourism, we have tried to communicate to the Chamber that we want advertisement for the city of Fort Oglethorpe to go out 100 to 150 miles around this area to bring people into this community,” Mayor Judd Burkhart said. “We’ve been begging for this for years now and they have not done so.
“I think it’s time to stop begging for something that we’re paying money for, and we’re going to have to start doing it ourselves,” he said.
“The revenues that we receive from Fort Oglethorpe in particular are specifically earmarked in our budget for tourism activities,” Chris Casey, Chamber board chairman, said.
If the Chamber no longer received those funds, it would no longer participate in those activities, he said.
Although the Chamber would not be promoting tourism, Fort Oglethorpe would be able to do so autonomously, Casey added.
“They would make their own decisions specifically about how they want their money to be spent, which is, by the way, how Ringgold has handled their funds all these years,” Casey said