The Mingo County Tourism Committee met for a two-hour session Wednesday afternoon to discuss ongoing question of how hotel-motel tax revenues are being dispersed among the county’s four recognized convention and visitors’ bureaus.
The group had sent a request to the Mingo County Commission during its meeting last week for the county payout to be sent to only one CVB. The reason for this request was that it would streamline the usage of the tax money by reducing overhead expenses and allow more dollars to be used for tourism promotion.
The commission sent the matter back to the committee for further consideration including setting up a possible review of the CVBs to determine how each organization is using the money and how effective they are being. The local officials are also seeking an opinion from the West Virginia Attorney General as to the county’s legal authority for the distribution of the taxes.
The discussion of the evaluation process was long and sometimes heated.
“The local CVBs are better able to market the events going on in their own communities better than someone from one CVB,” David Hatfield, a member of the Matewan delegation on the Tourism Committee. “Also, one CVB limits your grant opportunities. With four CVBs you have four shots at getting grant money as opposed to just one.”
“We understand the biggest fear is people being left out when it comes to marketing,” said Cameron Ellis, who made the motion to have only one recognized CVB during the committee’s last meeting.
To allay these concerns, he proposed a 13-member board consisting of a chairperson, the sheriff as the county’s chief tax collector, mayors of each municipality and six representatives of the main lodging facilities from which hotel-motel taxes are generated.
“This is not just about trail riders,” said Leigh Ann Ray who is one of the county commission representatives on the committee. “This is about tourism at large.”
Commissioner Greg “Hootie” Smith agreed with Ray and said that Ellis’ proposed board was just a remake of the Tourism Committee.
“That’s in essence this group,” Smith said. “That’s what this committee is, a mixture of voices for Mingo County.”
Vivian Livingood, mayor of Gilbert and a member of the town’s CVB, suggested using the accreditation guidelines for the evaluation process.
“A CVB does not have to be accredited, but these guidelines are a good place to start,” Livingood said.
It was decided to allow a two-season evaluation period for the CVBs using basic accrediting points along with other criteria to be determined, however, implementation of the process was tabled until the county receives an opinion from the Attorney General’s office.
In other business, the Tourism Committee voted to seek implementation of a county business license, moved its meeting time from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on the last Wednesday of the month to allow more members of the committee to attend meetings, discussed potential tourism developments and approved various points of county wide marketing efforts.