By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

Council wades into room tax issues

However, how high the tax should be set, how broadly it should be applied and how the proceeds should be allocated and administered have yet to be resolved.

By law, cities are required to dedicate 70 percent to tourism promotion. They can spend the other 30 percent any way they wish.

How broadly tourism promotion should be defined and who should be entrusted to oversee that component are issues the council is still wrestling with.

Councilor Scott Hill suggested the council separate the two issues, proceeding to implement the tax while it continues to grapple with the spending scope and oversight issues.

To lay the groundwork, the council is proposing a three-hour work session where it can exchange views with the McMinnville Area Chamber of Commerce and McMinnville Downtown Association. Both have been angling for a share of the dedicated tourism promotion money, but the council maintains it has the legal authority to retain full control.

The council has yet to decide how high to set the tax, and how broadly to apply it.

At the upper extreme, Portland assesses its room tax against “any structure or any portion of any structure ... designed for transient occupancy for 30 days or less for dwelling, lodging, or sleeping purposes.” It goes on to cite as examples “any hotel, inn, tourist home or house, motel, studio hotel, bachelor hotel, lodging house, rooming house, apartment house, public or private dormitory, fraternity, sorority, public or private club,” plus any “space or portion thereof so occupied, provided such occupancy is for less than a 30-day period.”

The council also heard a report from the McMinnville Downtown Association’s public art committee, which hopes the city will use some of its room-tax proceeds to establish an annual “people’s choice award” for the city’s loaned public art displays and purchase the winning piece.

Committee Chair Steve Rupp told the council that the city’s outlay for the art program is proving economically viable, citing a recent article in The Oregonian, listing downtown McMinnville as one of the best places locally for a walking tour. He noted it had recently been able to secure two more donated pieces.

He told the council that the committee has purchased lighting for several of the downtown sculptures, but was unable to do so for two statues of children reading near the library, due to the expense of extending power to their location.

Mayor Rick Olson noted that city Water & Light General Manager Kem Carr and Community Relations Manager Wes Thomas were in the audience, and quipped that it would sure “be nice” if Water & Light could agree to light the two statues.

In other business, the council:

* Authorized a 2.8 percent increase in sewage rates, effective July 1.

* Held an executive session to discuss labor negotiations. It took no action in open session, but City Attorney Candace Haines said the McMinnville Police Association had agreed to accept a 1.8 percent cost of living adjustment for the 2013-14 fiscal year, starting July 1.

* Established the city council as the urban renewal agency board and officially declared the existence of qualifying blighted areas downtown.

* Discussed a proposal by Information Systems manager Murray Paolo to purchase computer notebooks for each councilor as part of the city’s “paperless agenda initiative.” Paolo plans to buy the devices this summer at a total cost of $19,500, including software, installation and training. He said it would give members of the public greater access by allowing them to view meeting notes and documents online.

n Awarded a one-year contract for heating, ventilation and air conditioning work at nine city facilities to Dr. HVAC Inc., holder of the existing contract and low bidder on the new one, for $7,850.

n Heard a report from the McMinnville Economic Development Partnership, on how it has benefited the city since its 2008 inception.

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