“I don’t expect that the resolution is going to go forward, but there have been a lot of good changes with the TRT and the grant process,” said Commissioner Phil Lyman at the August 27 meeting of the San Juan County Commission.
The resolution in question was introduced by Lyman to the Commission several weeks prior, a proposal that transient room tax money (TRT) collected in Monticello and Blanding be returned to the cities to run rather than run through the County Travel and Tourism office.
Since the proposal was introduced, the City of Blanding responded in favor, while the City of Monticello opted out, asking that the money be left in the County office and that a city representative be placed on the county travel and tourism board.
Lyman said the resolution is in a “wait and see” mode, as the tourism board wants to ensure the commission will not micro-manage and the commission wants to see the tourism board fulfill their responsibilities.
“I will be surprised if it comes back. If it does, it will be in a different form,” said Lyman.
Commissioner Bruce Adams said, “I think we gave the advisory board an opportunity to express some of their concerns, and I feel like they understand what the commission expects them to do. I think that will make a lot of difference with what happens with the money and how it’s administered from this time forward.”
Lyman expressed appreciation to members of the tourism board for their passion and dedication to promote San Juan County.
Diana Davidson approached the commission on behalf of the Business Owners of Bluff regarding the issue. Davidson was delighted to hear the report on the meeting of the commission with the tourism board.
Davidson said that tourism is up 31 percent in the first six months of the year from the previous year and attributes this to the marketing efforts of the Visitors Services office. They feel the office has the ability to market the county in ways small businesses and communities cannot do.
Davidson specifically mentioned benefits Blanding receives from the Visitors Services Office, including advertising and support work for the ATV Safari, which she called a “valuable and tangible amount of services, grants and marketing efforts from the visitor’s services office”.
Davidson said a better approach to help Blanding get more would be for their travel council to work more closely with visitors services to devise a plan.
Lyman expressed his frustration over a lack of communication and transparency regarding the TRT funds. He said that as a commissioner, he cannot be accountable for the money when it never comes across the commission table for approval.
Lyman said the resolution was designed to bring the issue to the forefront and make it a discussion. “I’m thrilled with the discussion. I’m thrilled with the response Monticello gave on this when they came back asking for transparency in this department, accountability for these funds, and representation in the market.”
Lyman said he hopes this will help bring better communication, better visibility and a better grant process.
In other business, Lyman reminded the public that if people have issues with their tax notices they should do something about it before September 15, when final tax notices are prepared.
Commissioners said they are pleased with the number of people who attended Board of Equalization meetings.
In open time, county landowner Larry Sorrell urged the commission to consider writing a letter to the Department of Fish and Wildlife recommending the deportation of the Gunnison Sage Grouse.
Sorrell said he cannot see a benefit to having the birds but can see a huge economic benefit in oil and gas and wind projects if the area is not designated sage grouse habitat.
“It’s all benefit on that end and all risk on the other half,” said Sorrell. “Nearly all of the land owners in the area support that idea.”
Resident Marilyn Boynton expressed concern that such a letter would almost certainly bring an endangered species designation for the birds.