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Commissioners to study grant projects in Franklin County

May 28, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - With some groups upset that their projects were not recommended for funding, the Franklin County Board of Commissioners said Tuesday it will act individually on each of the 15 projects recommended to get hotel room tax funds.

"This committee is not, nor is this board, anti one group or another," said G. Warren Elliott, chairman of the board of commissioners. He said he was "a little disheartened" by comments criticizing the selection process for the grants.

In April, the county's Recreation and Open Space Advisory Committee recommended splitting $209,733 in hotel revenues between 15 of the 40 organizations that submitted applications for projects to enhance tourism, culture and recreation.

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The tax, first collected in 2002, brought in approximately $375,000, with 40 percent of that going to the Hershey-Capital Region Visitors Bureau.

Normally, the tourist promotion agency gets all the money, but Elliott said the county negotiated to get 60 percent of the money back for local tourism and recreation projects. Still, some groups were unhappy they were not recommended to receive money.

The 40 applications totaled nearly $750,000, according to the county planning department. Those applications were considered by the nine-member advisory committee, which issued its recommendations on April 28.

"What we want is not to memorialize ourselves ... but the county's participation in every war from the French and Indian," said Dr. Harry Haddon, chairman of Chambers Fort Memorial Park Inc. The advisory committee had not voted to recommend funding for the group's request for $19,100 architectural plans for a veterans memorial plaza in a downtown park.

"That's what we need to get off the ground" and begin fund-raising efforts, Haddon said.

"They wanted projects in this initial round that were ready to go," not to pay for consulting fees, Elliott said of the advisory committee's selection criteria.

"I have some ideas ... to make that project a reality," Elliott told Haddon and representatives from supporting veterans organizations. He said he would meet with them at a later time.

The Chambersburg Youth Soccer Association wanted $25,000 for improvements to Nitterhouse Memorial Park, but was not on the recommended list. Brenda Bernecker of the association said it has 72 teams coming for a tournament in June that will fill many local hotel rooms.

"We definitely fund a lot of what you're going to give away," she told the board.

Elliott said he wants the board to look at the recommended projects separately to determine if each has received all the necessary clearances and is ready to proceed.

As an example, he said an organization requiring a state permit for a project will not get a signed agreement before that permit is issued. If agreements are not reached for some projects, money could be reallocated, he said.

For projects that did not receive a positive recommendation, the commissioners recommended they discuss alternative funding sources with their municipality or the planning department, or reapply next year.

The selection process was originally based on a point system, but projects were so diverse the committee ended up voting each of them up or down on their merits, Chairman Charles White said. Senior Planner Sherri Clayton said the county continues to review the selection process in preparation for next year.

The Board and advisory committee were thanked by representatives from several groups that were recommended to get money. Grants of up to $25,000 were recommended for five capital improvement projects, six community festivals and four historical projects.

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