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11/28/2012 12:33:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
Chamber may become responsible for dispersing lodging tax funds
Kacie Thrift
Staff Writer

When applying for business assistance through the lodging tax fund, business owners might be sending their application to the Cashmere Chamber of Commerce, starting in 2013, instead of the Cashmere City Council.

The Cashmere City Council recently discussed giving the chamber responsibility for the lodging tax fund to distribute to businesses who have a plan to bring more tourists into the town. Cashmere City Attorney, Chuck Zimmerman, wrote up an agreement for the chamber and city concerning the lodging tax funds.

Previously, the council discussed with chamber staff what kind of process they have used to distribute the funds. The chamber agreed they will have the same type of process. However, the chamber's responsibities were not outlined in the agreement.

"I am in favor of the chamber taking over responsibility from us as a council in dispensing the hotel motel funds," said Councilman John Bryant, "I am opposed to the way this contract is written because there is nothing in there that says they have to accept applications or any process that should take place. Although, the verbal commitment from the chamber is that's exactly what they would do."

Bryant said the contract is written without the chamber's obligations of distributing funds because Zimmerman is concerned about potential third party liability (in relation to the council being so specific on what the chamber has to do). He said the way the contract is set up the chamber has freedom to take all of the lodging tax funds and spend them on their own activities.

Bryant suggested either the contract should be redrafted or the council should continue to be responsible for the funds.

Councilman Jim Fletcher said his only concern is for the community float. He said the council specifically mentioned funding for the float to the chamber but it's not in the contract. Councilman Skip Moore, suggested city staff could take out a certain amount of money from the lodging tax fund for the community float, and then give the remainder of the fund to the chamber.

Cashmere Mayor Jeff Gomes told council members the format Zimmerman used on the lodging tax fund agreement, is similar to the one that is being used now, which is likely why some specifications are left out. Cashmere Treasurer Kay Jones said when she first received the agreement she told Zimmerman about the application process the chamber and council agreed on but he recommended those specifications stay out of the contract.

Zimmerman said the chamber understands how lodging tax funds are used. If the city gives the chamber the funds and if they don't use the funds how the council expects them to for the first year, the council can terminate the contract. He said the chamber understands the process in place. By giving them the responsibility, the city is no longer the middle man for the lodging tax funds.

"His [Zimmerman] recommendation was to allow the chamber to determine what businesses would benefit the city of Cashmere by giving them the funds. They have to submit a report to us by October of every year so we get to see what they used those funds on. If we don't like what they used it on that year, we cancel the contract," Jones said.

The lodging tax fund is around $3,000 a year. Even though the fund is decreasing, the contract has a $5,000 maximum the chamber can receive each year.

Bryant was firm on not wanting the council to sign the current agreement Zimmerman drafted. He said he is not comfortable with the agreement not stating anything about the the chamber receiving applications and having a specific process in place to distribute the funds.

Councilman Derek Knutsen and Bryant agreed they are concerned the chamber could only use the funds for businesses who are chamber members. Bryant made a motion to table the agreement until the council has the opportunity to clarify with the chamber what process they will use to distribute the funds.

"I am all in favor of the chamber taking over this fund but the way the contract is written they have no obligation to look at outside interests," Bryant said.

All council members agreed to table the agreement except for Fletcher who said, "My intent in the first place was to get out of this business and I trust the chamber to do a fair job. The chamber will use the money to promote Cashmere."

Kacie Thrift may be reached at 782-3781 or

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