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Franklin County wants to keep room tax

December 03, 2005|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Every year, Franklin County takes in about $300,000 from the tax on hotel and motel rooms, with the money going into a regional visitors bureau for distribution among five counties.

The Franklin County Commissioners want to keep that money at home starting in January, and they need the approval of 51 percent of the county's townships and boroughs to do so.

The commissioners sent a letter to each municipality asking them to vote on the request at their December meeting. Few, if any, are expected to vote no, county officials said.

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Five counties make up the Hershey Capital Region Visitors' Bureau, including Franklin, Cumberland, Perry, Dauphin and Lebanon. Dauphin and Perry counties already have pulled out of the consortium, which was set up to promote tourism on a regionwide basis.

"The Hershey Capital Region has essentially disintegrated," said L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corporation.

Ross said he sees only good by keeping the hotel-motel tax money in the county.

"The primary advantage means it will allow Franklin County to be more self-directed," Ross said. "They'll be able to do a better job of promoting the area."

Franklin County will be able to partner with surrounding counties, including Washington County, Ross said.

In their letter to the local municipalities, the commissioners said the county will organize focus groups to help with the design of a new Franklin County Visitors Center. A local tourism board will be appointed to reflect the needs of local attractions.

"We are excited about the many possibilities this option will offer our county," the commissioners wrote in their letter to municipal officials.

"We can develop a plan on how the money will be spent," Commissioner Bob Thomas said.

William Gour, executive director of the Greencastle-Antrim Chamber of Commerce, said his office has been operating as if the Hershey Capital Region didn't exist.

Gour said he is in favor of the county pulling out.

"It will bring more money to Greencastle," he said. "We'll be able to focus on ourselves."

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