County can use bonds, but TDVA delays decision | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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County can use bonds, but TDVA delays decision

by Sally J. Taylor

Douglas County has the authority to secure bonds for completion of Kahle Park Phase II with room tax revenue whether the Tahoe-Douglas Visitors Authority formally approves the action or not, according to the authority’s county representative.

“The county vote has been taken and it will stand,” Steve Weissinger who sits on both boards, said during the TDVA Board of Director’s meeting on Wednesday. As a commissioner, Weissinger voted for the proposal in the 3-2 decision. He explained that one of the commissioners would have to want to change his vote and call for the matter to be put back on the agenda.

The funds in question are in county control until at least 1999, when the county is under state mandate to begin, over several years, to shift 65 percent of those funds to the TDVA for tourism promotions.

The board postponed a vote on the bonding issue until the Feb. 11 meeting.

“Until we know the facts, it would be fiscally irresponsible to take a position on Kahle Park,” said board member Skip Sayre, director of marketing for Harrah’s Lake Tahoe.

Many consider an official TDVA position important since the state legislature created that organization last year to ensure TOT funds are used for promotions.

“This can be a unifying thing,” Vicki Veris, a park supporter, told the board. “We need that.”

The board again declined to take a vote, citing the need for more information on the financial impact such a move would have on future marketing funds.

In its Jan. 14 meeting, the board called for a meeting with representatives of both the county and the board to clarify the numbers.

That meeting occurred just before the TDVA meeting and did not leave enough time to run the numbers.

“We don’t know what the funding proposal really is. We don’t think they’re sure,” said TDVA legal counsel Morgan Baumgartner, who attended that meeting. “The county will provide what we ask for and we’ll go from there.”

In public comment, Veris also warned the TDVA board that delaying a position would only keep the rumor mills running against the TDVA.

“Putting off (a decision) is not a good idea,” she said. “Just like the government puts things off expecting them to go away, if you don’t address this, the community will continue to talk.”

The talk, she said, included rumors about payoffs and back room agreements. Plus a letter from the authority to the county looked like a violation of open meeting laws because it suggested a position that had not been taken at a public meeting.

The letter addressed to Jacque Etchegoyhen, chairman of the board of commissioners says in part, “… speaking at least for the four members of the tourism industry on the TDVA Board, we cannot support the continued use of Room Tax if it negatively impacts funds available for the promotion of tourism at Lake Tahoe.”

The board offered its own warning.

Baumgartner, of Lionel Sawyer & Collins said that, during Jan. 14 board meeting, those members of the board in the tourism industry did state their individual concerns and those concerns are in the minutes of the meeting.

“The letter doesn’t express a position of this board,” she said.

Board Chairman David Attaway also asked if the rumors stated could be considered liable. Baumgartner answered that if someone was saying such things, unsubstantiated, it could be considered libelous.

In other business:

— The board approved a contract with Patterson Rush & Company to provide accounting services to the TDVA. Douglas Patterson was also appointed as treasurer to the board.

— With its financial structure now in place, the board approved requesting funds earmarked for the TDVA from the county, which has been holding them for the new organization. Those funds come from a 1 percent increase in TOT that began Oct. 1.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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