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Washington County pledged $100,000 to undisclosed financial company

April 27, 2012|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com

County government officials agreed in a closed session last year to pay a $100,000 incentive for a financial services company to expand into Washington County, but its name is protected by a nondisclosure agreement, according to a county official.

The payment — to be made from the county’s hotel-motel tax fund in fiscal year 2012 — is documented on the county’s fiscal 2011 Hotel Motel Tax Annual Report in a list of funds committed but not yet spent.

Fiscal 2012 runs from July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012.

That report lists the payee as the real-estate company Cushman & Wakefield, but that was done to protect the identity of the actual recipient, county spokeswoman Sarah Lankford Sprecher said Thursday.

Cushman & Wakefield is the site consultant for the company, she said.

Sprecher said the financial services company is still “looking at leases,” but she did not think the incentive payment had been made yet.

The company would be new to Washington County, she said.

The Washington County Board of Commissioners voted to approve the $100,000 incentive in a closed session in March 2011, she said.

The county sometimes approves economic development incentives as local matches for incentives from the state Department of Business and Economic Development.

But DBED spokeswoman Maureen Kilcullen said her department was not involved with a deal matching Sprecher’s description.

Economic development is one of four categories of projects that may be awarded money from the hotel-motel tax fund, which comes from the 6 percent lodging tax on overnight stays in the county. The other eligible project categories are tourism attractions, culture and recreation.

Other recent economic development incentives from the hotel-motel tax fund have included $25,000 to Dynamark Security in fiscal 2012; $739,206 to T. Rowe Price over six years beginning in fiscal 2011; $10,500 to Bergman Eye Center in fiscal 2011; and $10,000 to Capital Women’s Care in fiscal 2011.

Each of those payments was approved by the commissioners in public session.

The report also shows the county paid $50,000 in fiscal 2011 for the marketing of Direct Air, the carrier that flew from Hagerstown Regional Airport to Lakeland, Fla., from June through August 2010.

The county agreed to provide the same incentive — $50,000 a year for marketing — to Allegiant Air for five years, Commissioner John F. Barr has said. Allegiant is set to begin flying between Hagerstown and Orlando on May 25.

According to the fiscal 2011 report, the county received about $1.7 million in hotel-motel tax revenue that year, spent about $1.5 million, and carried over about $360,000 from the prior year, for a fund balance of about $560,000 at the close of fiscal 2011.

The county gives half of the hotel-motel tax revenue to the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, which totaled $848,680 in fiscal 2011.

The county also distributes some of the revenue to municipalities. In fiscal 2011, that totaled $308,034.

In March, the county finalized a new process for awarding hotel-motel fund grants for tourism, cultural and recreational projects.

Those grant applications are now processed by the Office of Community Grant Management, which forwards its recommendations to the county administrator for approval if the grant is $25,000 or less, or to the five commissioners for approval if the grant is more than $25,000.

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Hotel-motel tax payments

Payments totaling $1,496,875 from the Washington County hotel-motel tax fund in fiscal 2011 included:

  • Convention and Visitors Bureau: $848,680
  • Municipalities: $308,034

Economic development

  • $123,201 to T. Rowe Price in the first of six annual payments to help finance land and a building
  • $50,000 to Hagerstown Regional Airport for marketing Direct Air
  • $10,500 to Bergman Eye Center as an incentive for a new building in Hagerstown for creation of jobs
  • $10,000 to Capital Women’s Care as an incentive for a new building and expansion of business for creation of jobs

Tourism

  • $20,000 for the Maryland Symphony Orchestra’s Salute to Independence event
  • $3,115 for JFK 50 Ultramarathon patrol overtime
  • $1,845 for Tour of Washington County bicycle event patrol overtime
  • $1,500 for a commemorative book for the Washington County Historical Society’s 100th anniversary celebration

Culture

  • $100,000 toward the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts courtyard enclosure project
  • $5,000 to sponsor a Take Flight II hot-air balloon sculpture to benefit the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts

Recreation

  • $15,000 to the Salvation Army for construction of a new community recreation area.
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