By Samantha White
During the regular meeting of the Hines Common Council held Jan. 22, Councilor Ron Williams said he “spent a considerable amount of time” meeting with individuals regarding the city’s transient room tax (TRT) rate. Williams said he believes the TRT should remain the same, and the city should contribute the same percentage to the Harney County Chamber of Commerce that it did last year. Williams made a motion to “keep things exactly as they are existing for one year.”
Transient room tax is a tax imposed by a unit of local government on the sale, service or furnishing of transient (temporary) lodging. Effective July 1, 2006, Hines Ordinance 272 increased the city’s TRT rate to 8 percent, and 25 percent of the annually budgeted revenue from the TRT is paid to the Harney County Chamber of Commerce general fund each year.
During the regular meeting of the Hines Common Council held Tuesday, Dec. 11, Mayor Nikki Morgan told Harney County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jen Hoke that she was concerned about what the city of Hines is getting in return for the money it pays to the chamber. Discussion followed, but no decisions were made.
A special meeting of the Hines Common Council was held Wednesday, Dec. 26. Morgan said the meeting was only considered “special” because it was not held during the regularly scheduled meeting time due to the Christmas holiday. During the meeting, the council discussed whether it should change the city’s TRT percentage and how revenue collected from the tax should be used to promote tourism in Hines. Morgan said it came out that she was considering removing all the money that the city gives to the chamber. “That is not true,” she said. Discussion regarding the city’s TRT rate and contribution to the chamber continued, but Morgan said it would be critical to receive input from the hotels before a decision could be made.
Owners and managers from Best Western Rory & Ryan Inn, Inn at Cross Keys, the Sundowner Motel and Knotty Pine Motel attended the regularly scheduled meeting of the Hines Common Council held Jan. 8 to continue the TRT discussion. The owners and managers said they all agreed that raising the TRT would discourage customers from patronizing their businesses. Morgan thanked the owners and managers for their input. Discussion regarding the city’s TRT and contribution to the chamber continued, but no decisions were made regarding these issues.
During the Jan. 22 meeting, Councilor Dick Baird seconded Williams’ motion to maintain the city’s current TRT rate and continue contributing 25 percent to the chamber.
“I spent a lot of time, myself, discussing it,” Baird said.
Baird said there had been some discussion about the city of Hines using TRT funds to make a brochure, promoting its tourism.
He asked, “What does Hines have to sell that will keep people in a motel and make them want to stay a couple of days?” He said, collectively, the county has a lot of things for people to do, and he expressed that there should be a collective, collaborative effort to promote tourism within the county.
“Let’s come together,” he said.
Morgan said the proposed brochure was discussed during a meeting with Travel Oregon, which was held Jan. 17 to discuss tourism in Harney County. She said the proposed brochure would be for the entire county, and the city was discussing funding it.
Councilor John Mims said, “There needs to be more communication and working together.” He later stated that he would be willing to help with communication and said, “A lot of people have great ideas.”
Councilor Dick Anderson said, “Part of the problem is with Hines, itself.” He added that Hines has never taken an idea to the chamber.
Morgan interjected that ideas have been taken to the chamber.
Councilor Tom Choate said he agreed with the statements made by Baird. “Let’s try another year and make a decision,” he said, meaning that he would like to maintain the TRT and the chamber contribution at their current rates for another year.
Fred Flippence, a member of the public, was in attendance and asked to comment on the issue.
Morgan said public comment is usually not allowed when a motion is on the floor, but she decided to allow him to speak.
Flippence, who identified himself as the chief financial officer for Harney Electric Cooperative, said, years ago, the TRT for Burns and Hines was 5 percent. He said, in an effort to sustain itself, the chamber approached the hotels about increasing the TRT rate. He said the hotels agreed to increase the tax to 7 percent with an understanding that 2 percent would go to the chamber.
“I think we ought to stick with the promises we made years ago,” Flippence said.
Flippence said he writes grants for the Harney County Opportunity Team, and the people and foundations that invest in the community pay attention to what goes on in the area.
“We need to have good headlines in the paper,” he said. He added that the cities need to work together and not get caught up in division.
Tod Gahley also asked to speak about the issue. Gahley said he has had business licenses in Burns and Hines, and he is the treasurer of the Harney County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. He said he believed the meeting held Dec. 26 was “dangerously close to violating pubic meeting laws” and added that he supported Williams’ motion to keep the TRT and chamber contribution as they are for one year.
Morgan reminded those in attendance that there was a motion on the floor, and the council was encouraged to make a decision. The motion was approved unanimously.
Superintendent of Public Works Pedro Zabala reported that the crew received calls concerning three or four houses with frozen, broken water pipes.
Morgan asked whether the houses were occupied, and Zabala said they were not.
Mims asked whether the city turned the water off in unoccupied homes.
City Administrator Joan Davies replied, “It varies from house-to-house. It depends on the landlord.”
Zabala said, “Other than [the frozen pipes] things are going good.”
Police Chief Ryan DeLange said a decision needs to be made regarding what to do with five unclaimed guns that are in the evidence locker.
He added that he is working on obtaining speed enforcement and equipment grants.
DeLange said he obtained his Supervisory Certificate Jan. 18.
Davies reported that the city received a donation request from the Harney County Senior and Community Services Center for its Senior Nutrition Program. Davies said the council could sponsor an entree, which would cost $150, or a side dish, which would cost $75. She said the city sponsored an entree last year, and the year before that, the cities of Burns and Hines split entree sponsorship between them, each paying $75. The council agreed to sponsor an entree at a cost of $150.
Davies said the center sends two free lunch tickets to the council whenever the city sponsors meals, but the tickets have not been used in the past two years.
The council decided to suggest that the tickets be given to someone who needs them.
Morgan added that the center is looking for volunteers to help with its various community service programs.
“If you have free time and are interested in volunteering, it’s a good thing,” she said. Morgan gave the center’s contact information to a person in attendance who expressed interest in volunteering.
Morgan said she also plans on volunteering.
In other business, the council:
• decided to donate $100 toward the purchase of a digital projector for the Desert Historic Theatre;
• approved and adopted Resolution 2163, as read by Davies. The resolution provides for accepting $2,000 of unanticipated revenue for driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII) patrol overtime and $500 of unanticipated revenue for seatbelt patrol overtime in the form of two grants from the Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police;
• agreed to send maintenance worker Roger Glerup to the Oregon Association of Water Utilities conference in Sunriver. Zabala explained that the conference provides continuing education;
• learned from Davies that the city has raised $4,407.79 for park beautification by collecting returnable cans and bottles;
• held an executive session Wednesday, Jan. 23, at 6:30 p.m. at city hall.
The next common council meeting will be held Tuesday, Feb. 12, at 6:30 p.m. at city hall.