Port Angeles City Council appoints members to Lodging Tax Advisory Committee

PORT ANGELES — A two-thirds majority of the Port Angeles City Council has appointed seven members to the influential Lodging Tax Advisory Committee.

The volunteer panel makes recommendations on marketing efforts, events and capital projects to be funded with lodging excise tax revenue.

The City Council voted 4-2 Tuesday to appoint Robert Utz, Mark Cole, Christine Loewe, Kim Reynolds, David Mattern, David Shargel and Michael “Chig” Martin to the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee (LTAC) for terms ending Feb. 28, 2019.

Council members Cherie Kidd and Jim Moran voted no, saying Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Marc Abshire and Black Ball Ferry Line Vice President of Marketing Ryan Malane should have been selected.

“I’m just concerned that we are not using the highest-qualified people with experience in lodging tax for our city,” Kidd said at the council meeting. “So I really can’t support the new recommendations.”

An ad hoc committee composed of three council members — Michael Merideth, Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin and Mayor Sissi Bruch — recommended the seven candidates.

Bruch, who was absent from Tuesday’s council meeting, was previously designated as the council representative on LTAC.

The Port Angeles Forward Committee designated Mary Sue French as a non-voting representative on the nine-member committee.

The city’s lodging tax fund is supported by a 4 percent consumer tax on stays at Port Angeles lodging establishments. The tax is taken as a credit against the 6.5 percent state sales tax.

LTAC makes spending recommendations to put “heads in beds” by encouraging overnight stays for those traveling at least 50 miles to Port Angeles.

“The idea behind this is to spend money to bring money into the city,” Moran said at the council meeting.

Last year’s City Council approved $827,000 in lodging tax spending for 2018, including $230,000 for marketing, $100,000 for Civic Field improvements, $100,000 for wayfinding signs, $85,000 for events and $74,600 for the Port Angeles Visitors Center.

Volunteers serve on LTAC for one-year terms.

City officials received 11 applications for the seven open positions.

Here are candidates who were selected to represent businesses that collect lodging excise tax.

• Utz, general manager of the Port Angeles Red Lion Hotel.

• Cole, manager of @ The Park Inn of Port Angeles.

Here are candidates who were selected as those involved in activities authorized to use lodging tax funds.

• Loewe, communications director at Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County, Calif. and Olympic Peninsula YMCA Watson Memorial Fund committee member.

• Reynolds, owner and travel planner at Cruise Planners Franchise.

Here are candidates who were selected as at-large members.

• Mattern, senior consultant at Parametrix.

• Shargel, former production planner at Wallace Computer Services.

• Martin, director of sales at Olympic Lodge of Port Angeles.

Kidd pulled the LTAC appointments off the City Council’s consent agenda Tuesday to make her case for Abshire and Malane.

“Ryan is a well-renowned expert in marketing this area,” Kidd said of Malane, who works for the ferry line that operates the MV Coho ferry between Port Angeles and Victoria.

“He’s brilliant at what he does.”

Abshire is an expert in promoting festivals and creating new events that bring tourists to Port Angeles, Kidd said.

“The whole purpose of Lodging Tax Advisory Committee is creating heads in beds, bringing people from out of town to specific events,” Kidd said.

Schromen-Wawrin said he based his decision to recommend other candidates on the fact that Malane had served on LTAC for at least four years and that Abshire would need to recuse himself from debates on funding chamber-sponsored events because of conflicts of interest.

“Those were the considerations for me in not selecting those two candidates, although I totally agree with you about their qualifications,” Schromen-Wawrin said.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

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