Visitors bureau reviewing policy regarding brochures
Members of the Lycoming County Visitors Bureau and Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce have the benefit of placing brochures and information inside the organization’s visitors information center at 210 William St.
But since the visitors bureau uses public tax money generated from the county’s hotel room tax for marketing, promotion and salaries, state Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-Williamsport, thinks that benefit should be open for all organizations.
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He said that constituents asked him to look into the policy.
“Like most bureaus, you have to be a member,” said Jason Fink, executive director of the local bureau.
But that policy is under review by the visitor bureau’s operating committee, Fink added.
“We’ve been requested to look at that policy to allow non-members” access to the visitors information center, he said. “There’s been no decision on it right now.”
Any recommendation by the visitor bureau’s operating committee will have to be confirmed by the chamber’s executive committee, because the bureau is an affiliate of the chamber.
Lycoming County Commissioner Jeff C. Wheeland said non-members should be allowed to place information at the center, but at a price.
“If they’re not a member of the chamber, they should be required to pay something,” he said. “There should be no free rides for businesses.”
Mirabito has said that one group should not be favored over another regarding access to the visitors information center.
“Using public tax dollars to favor one entity over another, that is not proper,” he said. “When you use public tax dollars, you can’t have different sets of rules.”
He called for an independent visitors bureau separate from the chamber, even though county commissioners have indicated they have no plans to change the arrangement between the bureau and the chamber.
As far as how the visitors bureau and chamber use the hotel tax money, another local state legislator said he is comfortable with the arrangement.
“It is absolutely being used for what the legislation allows it to be used for,” state Rep. Garth Everett, R-Muncy, said about the county’s hotel tax. “I don’t have any problem at all with what the county has been doing with the hotel tax.”
Legislation is pending that would allow Blair, Cambria, Centre, Chester, Indiana, Lancaster, Mercer, York and Lycoming counties the ability to raise their hotel tax from 3 to 5 percent. If passed, county commissioners would have the authority to approve the increase.
“I’m not against that,” Everett said of the proposal from state Rep. Ron Miller, R-York. “I’m not sure whether the county would do it or not.”
Everett added that people have not approached him about the issue.
“None of the businesses in the 84th District have complained to me the way things are. None of my constituents have brought it to my attention,” he said.
Everett said that Mirabito can use his elected position to make a change, if he wants.
“If you don’t like the way the (hotel tax) authorization is set up, introduce some legislation to change it,” he said. “In Harrisburg, he doesn’t do anything about it.”