January 02, 2014 - 9:13 AM
PENTICTON - "No one wants to play nice in the sandbox."
In nine words Penticton Coun. Andrew Jakubeit summed up the conflict between city council and Penticton Hospitality Association that has Tourism Penticton caught in the middle.
There's been a lot more words spoken from all sides in the fight to control the two per cent hotel room tax but from the position of residents it might look like kids scrapping when they should be getting along.
The one thing many can agree on is the need for a tourism entity promoting Penticton and in control of the tax which generates $400,000 in marketing money annually.
City council grilled the normally silent association in a face-to-face meeting about its performance since gaining control of the hotel room tax. They wanted to know how the association is spending taxpayer dollars for the purpose of external marketing of the city.
Association operations director Tim Hodgkinson took most of the heat from council, especially from Coun. John Vassilaki who accused the association of "hoarding" the $424,357. "You are not doing anything with it," Vassilaki said.
A few hotel owners along Lakeshore Drive also wondered. Rochester Resort manager Pattie Webster wanted to know where the money is going. "I haven't seen it going back into the community."
Hotel owner Trinka Pontes said Penticton tourism is hurting and it needs a boost. The association was to provide that but what happened next went unreported.
Hodgkinson said the association budgeted $315,000 for a 2013 marketing plan and $150,000 had already been earmarked or spent. The association also answered funding requests for events, such as Challenge Penticton, that can draw people to the community.
These successes didn't make the city happy with council accusing the association of breaking its contract. It ordered the association to give its funding to Tourism Penticton.
"Council does not take this kind of decision lightly," Mayor Garry Litke said. Audited financial statements obtained by the city showed a large amount of money was unspent and this was "contrary to the destination marketing strategy."
The mayor declined to give an opinion on the possibility of the association looking for an appeal or starting a lawsuit, how recent meetings with the association went and anything else dealing with the hotel room tax as of last week.
Chief financial officer Colin Fisher confirmed the city spent $21,000 in legal fees as of Nov. 8, in its fight with the association. In response the association hired a Kelowna law firm.
To contact a reporter for this story, to send photos or videos, email Shannon Quesnel at email@example.com, call 250-488-3065, send tweets to @shannonquesnel1 or @InfoNewsPentict.
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