The Wyoming County Commissioners announced the recipients of $46,200 in Room Tax grants for 2017, and the Wyoming County Cultural Center (above) was the biggest winner, garnering funds for the Dietrich Theater’s film festivals and enhancements to the Historic Tunkhannock Walking Tour.
Story and file photos by Rick Hiduk
Room Tax collections were down in Wyoming County last year. And, while that in itself could have been worse, the level of funding requested through the state’s Room Tax program increased by more than 30 percent over last year resulting in the available funds being stretched thinner than usual.
Wyoming County commissioners Tom Henry and Ron Williams approved the distribution of $46,200 for 11 organizations and 13 projects as per the recommendations of the Wyoming County Room Tax Committee.
“It does a lot of good things and helps bring tourism to the area,” said Commissioner Judy Mead, who abstained from the vote as she is a member of the committee. Mead provided details and a synopsis of how receipts in 2016 and funding for 2017 differed from previous years.
Last year’s requests for funding were about $99,500 for approximately $55,000 that was available. This year, applicants asked for $130,206, more than twice the $46,275 the committee had to distribute. That said, the committee did its best to give as many organizations some money towards specific projects as possible.
The Wyoming County Cultural Center submitted five applications requesting a total of $37,480 but was only awarded $11,000, most of which will be used to promote one film festival each season in 2017.
“Room Tax funds have a tremendous impact on our ability to advertise programs such as Shakespeare in the Park, River Day, and our film festivals,” said cultural programs director Margie Young.
“By promoting these events beyond a 50-mile radius, not only is our event attendance increased but those who go to these events are likely to shop, dine and visit other attractions in our county,” added executive director Erica Rogler.
Two thousand dollars was appropriated to the Cultural Center by the Room Tax Committee for enhancements to the Historic Tunkhannock Walking Tour (below), which was developed in 2016 using a Room Tax grant and other funds.
The Kiwanis Wyoming County Fair’s request for $35,000 was pared down to $9,000. The Tunkhannock Business & Professional Association received $9,000 of $17,000 requested for Founders Day (below), Christmas in Our Hometown, and the October Quilt & Artisans Walk. Keystone College will receive $3,500 of $7,500 requested for concerts, exhibitions, and summer community events.
Thirty-five hundred dollars will be funneled to Vosburg Neck (below) via a pair of organizations. Friends of the Howland Preserve were awarded $2,000 towards the Rockin’ the River event, and the Endless Mountains Nature Center will get $1,500 toward the Vosburg Neck Festival and a wayfinding sign project.
Friends of The Oldest House in Laceyville (below) successfully applied for the $1,200 they needed for a 2017 marketing and promotional project that falls on the heals of extensive restoration of the structure’s foundation over the past year.
Scoring $1,000 each for 2017 were the Wyoming County Chorale, Northern Tier Symphony Orchestra, and the Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce. The Room Tax Committee set aside $6,000 for itself to be used for marketing of Wyoming County.
Mead noted that there might have been even less money to disburse had the commissioners not approved a request from the Room Tax committee this past summer to increase the percentage collected on stays in local hotels and B’nBs from 3 to 5 percent.
“If we had not increased it for those six months, we would have only had about $29,000 to give away,” said Mead.
A change in the program last year that will mandate the collection of room tax on the short-term rentals of cabins and other structures, as well as hotel and B’n’B stays will not likely increase Wyoming County’s share of the funds, Mead noted. That change, which goes into affect in the new year, will be more beneficial to Sullivan County, which has more cabins than hotel rooms.
Once approved by the respective county commissioners, the funds are disbursed by the Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau.
In separate news: County chief clerk Bill Gaylord announced that Wyoming County is the recipient of a P-Corp Grant in the amount of $9,388. The grants, Gaylord explained, are drawn annually from surpluses in the state’s workman’s comp fund.
“It has given us the ability to do a lot of things at the courthouse that we wouldn’t have been able to do,” Henry stated.
Previous projects made possible by the grants were new sidewalks around the courthouse, more security cameras, and refurbishing carpeting on the second floor. Projects on tap for 2017 include replacing carpeting on the third floor of the courthouse, expanding smoke detectors in the courtroom and other parts of the courthouse, and purchasing more extensive first aid kits for the courthouse, the county’s recycling center and other county buildings.