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County ready to distribute tourism grants

March 03, 2003|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - An informational meeting tonight will highlight a new funding source for nonprofit groups and municipalities looking for grants to support a tourism-related project.

Franklin County began collecting a 3 percent tax on its hotel rooms last year, with revenue totaling nearly $376,000 in 2002, Franklin County Treasurer Chris Bender said.

Sixty percent of that - $221,000 - will stay in Franklin County, with the remainder going to the Capital Region Vacation Bureau to push for regional tourism.

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The county will distribute the revenue annually as a way of strengthening and sustaining recreation, parks and open space.

Tonight's meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the Franklin County Administration Annex, 218 N. Second St., Chambersburg. The meeting will explain the process to apply for funds and answer questions.

"We're expecting a fair amount of interest. It is a really neat opportunity and nice local funding source to support resources throughout Franklin County," said Phil Wolgemuth, county planner.

Grants are available for tourism-related projects that enhance cultural, natural and recreation resources in Franklin County. To be considered for the funds, nonprofit groups or municipal entities need to submit applications, which will be available at the meeting, to the Franklin County Planning Commission by April 15.

An advisory committee will review the applications and hold a public hearing in April before making a recommendation on how to divide the funds to the Franklin County Board of Commissioners in May, Wolgemuth said.

Applications will be evaluated on a 100-point scale that will rate how the project will enhance tourism and benefit local residents, support for project and other criteria.

The hotel room tax was appealing to local officials because tourists are the ones shouldering the burden, and the proceeds will help local arts councils, museums or special projects that would attract tourists.

With about 1,400 hotel rooms in Franklin County renting for an average of $50 a night, the 3 percent tax adds $1.50 to the average hotel room cost.

People who occupy a hotel room for more than 30 consecutive days are exempt from the tax.

Those unable to attend tonight's meeting can obtain a grant guideline sheet and application by contacting the Franklin County Planning Commission at 717-261-3855 or by sending e-mail to planning@co.franklin.pa.us.

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