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City council approves ATAX, HTAX recommendations

Posted: June 15, 2017 5:42 p.m.
Updated: June 16, 2017 1:00 a.m.

During its meeting Tuesday, Camden City Council approved recommendations from its accommodation and hospitality tax committees, disbursing nearly $164,000 for a number of requesting organizations.

Council approved the Accommodation Tax (ATAX) Committee’s recommendations to provide $64,500, honoring all but two of 15 requests totaling $135,186. Two other organizations that received funding in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 did not make requests this year. Only three of the requesting agencies obtained exactly what they asked to receive.

The largest amount of ATAX funding will go to the Fine Arts Center (FAC) of Kershaw County. The FAC had requested $15,000 for its annual Blues festival; the ATAX Committee recommended $11,000.

“The committee feels this is (a) very valid request and truly generates ATAX funding within our community,” the committee wrote in its report to council.

Accommodation taxes are generated from the proceeds made by hotels, motels and other businesses that put -- as Councilwoman Joanna Craig put it Tuesday -- “heads on the beds” in Camden. Craig noted that this year’s ATAX disbursements are an increase from FY 2017, which only saw $51,000 versus this year’s $64,500.

Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site will receive the next largest disbursement of ATAX money, $10,000 for the advertising and promotion of events. Historic Camden had asked for $30,000. It had received only $8,500 in FY 2017.

While the Carolina Cup Racing Association (CCRA) received the third largest disbursement at $8,000, it was well below its $20,000 request. It received no ATAX funds in FY 2017.

“The committee discussed the changes from the association to one race per year,” the committee wrote in its report, referring to the CCRA’s recent decision to cancel the Colonial Cup event in the fall and fold the race itself into the spring Carolina Cup events. “Upon review of the budget of the cup event, (we) thought the recommendation was sufficient to help promote and advertise the yearly event.”

Other ATAX disbursements will include:

• Carolina Bass Challenge, bass tournament -- requested $6,000, will receive $3,000

• Camden Jaycees, Battle of Camden BBQ Festival -- requested $3,000, will receive $2,000

• American Legion Post No. 17, Traveling Vietnam Memorial -- will receive its request of $5,000

• S.C. Thoroughbred Retirement, Boykin Spring Fling Trail Ride -- requested $5,000, will receive $2,500

• United Way of Kershaw County, Springdale 5K Run -- requested $2,000, will receive $1,000

• Old English District, tourism promotion -- requested $8,980, will receive $5,000

• S.C. Equine Foundation, S.C. Equine Park advertising -- will receive its request of $7,500

• The Marley Project, EQUUS Film Festival -- requested $15,000, will receive its request of $5,000

• Community Medical Clinic of Kershaw County, Oysters & BBQ -- requested $4,431, will receive $2,000

• Camden Junior Welfare League, Candlelight Tour of Homes -- will receive its request of $2,000

The two organizations that requested but did not receive funding are the Montessori School of Camden, which had requested $7,275 for its Irish Fest; and the National Steeplechase Museum, which requested $4,000 for a jewelry show. The two organizations that did not make requests this year were Louise Proctor Hall and the Boykin Spaniel Society.

Councilman Jeffrey Graham expressed his appreciation for the committee’s work and said he expects that, as the community grows and with a new hotel on the way, there will be more ATAX funds to disburse to requesting organizations.

Mayor Alfred Mae Drakeford agreed.

“I wish we had enough money to fund every request. We know that it is not possible, but I don’t think any of the decisions were taken lightly. We know it’s not an easy task, but it’s a task that we must do,” Drakeford said.

Council also approved the Hospitality Tax (HTAX) Committee’s recommendations to provide $99,430 to honor 15 of 22 requests for $272,619. Four organizations that made requests in FY 2017 did not make requests this year.

The most HTAX funds will go to Historic Camden to expand and upgrade its public restrooms. Historic Camden had asked for $20,000; the committee recommended $17,000. Three organizations will each receive $15,000 in HTAX funds: Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce, which had requested $23,000 for its visitors center; S.C. Equine Center, as part of a three-year $15,000 per year commitment for a total of $45,000 toward rest room facilities (the original request was for $75,000); and the FAC, which had requested $20,000 in operational support.

Other HTAX disbursements will go to:

• Junior Welfare League, Candlelight Tour of Homes -- requested $5,000, will receive $3,000

• Habitat for Humanity of Kershaw County, Fall Festival Arts & Crafts Fair -- will received request for $1,430

• Community Medical Clinic of Kershaw County, 5K Run/1 Mile Walk/Run -- requested $4,000, will receive $1,000

• The Marley Project, EQUUS Film Festival -- requested $10,000, will receive $4,000

• Old English District, tourism promotions -- requested $5,000, will receive $4,000

• United Way of Kershaw County (UWKC), Chili Cook-off -- requested $3,000, will receive $2,500

• UWKC, Tour de Camden -- will received request for $1,500

• CCRA, Carolina Cup promotions -- requested $20,000, will receive $10,000

• Camden Fire Department, Fire Fest -- requested $6,000, will receive $5,000

• Camden Jaycees, Battle of Camden BBQ Festival -- will receive request for $2,500

• American Legion Post No. 17, Traveling Vietnam Memorial -- requested $12,000, will received $2,500

As he did for the ATAX Committee, Graham praised the HTAX Committee’s work adding, again, that he wished there were more money to disburse.

“The more money we would have, the more we could do,” Graham said. “They have brought tourists to our community and also for our local community to enjoy. Both of these funds are designed to promote what is going on in our community…. I’m excited about these recommendations and looking forward to these events and seeing more and more folks come visit Camden.”

Councilwoman Deborah Davis appreciated what she said she could tell had been the HTAX Committee’s in-depth discussions of each request.

Craig also said the reasons for each disbursement, or withholding of HTAX funds, were well thought out. She also commended Historic Camden -- for which she served as executive director for many years -- on its request.

“The idea of expanding and helping to renovate the restrooms … visitors to Historic Camden always comment on how clean and neat the restrooms were, but they are summer camp-like.”

In other business Tuesday, council unanimously:

• passed second and final reading of an ordinance swapping properties on Market and King streets with Rabon Properties LLC in order to protect the city’s Civil War-era powder magazine;

• passed first reading of an ordinance annexing the former Bi-Lo shopping center and assigning General Business District interim zoning to the property;

• passed a resolution providing for a hazard-free work environment, thereby providing protection to city employees, public and private property, and members of the public;

• passed a resolution accepting ownership of streets in the Southern Oaks subdivision;

• accepted a $7,100 front façade grant application from Little Midget on Market Street, of which the city will reimburse $2,400; and

• accepted a $3,115 front façade grant application from Café Charlie on Broad Street, of which the city will reimburse $1,558.

One person spoke during public forum near the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting. Linda Woods said she in the process of moving into and fixing up a home in the Sunnyhill subdivision and felt she is being treated unfairly by the city’s zoning office. Woods claimed she has been told it is “against the law” to have anything in her driveway or in front of her house. She said she is not running a business out of her home, which she said appeared to be what the ordinances cited to her are about.

Also, Drakeford announced a Leader’s Legacy Bench will be dedicated to James B. McGuirt at 9 a.m. June 30 in Hampton Park. The rain location will be Camden City Hall. Light refreshments will be served.

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