At a lengthy meeting of the Lewisburg City Council on Tuesday, Feb. 21, councilmembers heard a financial request from the Lewisburg Downtown Business Association (LDBA), updated the speed limit on McElhenny Road, reappointed a Planning Commission member, and more.
President of the LDBA, Jill McIntyre, shared a presentation to the council to “make a case” to be included in the city budget. The LDBA requested $50,000 from the city to be used for printing brochures, updating their website and social media platforms, taking new promotional photos, and updating and reprinting their visitor’s guide. The LDBA is a separate entity from the Greenbrier Valley Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, which already receives funding from the city through the hotel/motel tax. Fifty percent of the hotel/motel tax funds must be spent on the CVB, and the other half has several approved uses for allocating funds, including for a “tourist information center,” which McIntyre argued that the LDBA is.
City Manager Misty Hill explained that the other half of the hotel/motel tax is already allotted for public parks and beautification, one of the other approved funding uses. She stated that $50,000 taken from this funding would be coming out of payroll and healthcare for parks employees.
Councilmember John Little said, “I don’t believe that marketing is a role of the government,” and stated that he does support the mission of the LDBA, but that he believes it is “disingenuous” to label the LDBA as a “tourism information center.” He added, “I’m really struggling to see how the City would be responsible for marketing a select group of businesses that only benefits people who pay dues to this organization and is limited by a geographical area.”
He also noted that he believed this would be “unfair to the other businesses,” but that he likes what the CVB does for marketing our entire region.
“We aren’t asking you to be our advertisers, we are asking for you to help us draw visitors to downtown Lewisburg,” said McIntyre.
Councilmember Valerie Pritt said that she disagreed with that statement, “Only because you are asking this body to give you a share of money to market.”
Mayor Beverly White said that the city already helps local businesses by implementing a high threshold, $15 million, for B&O tax. “We did that deliberately,” she said, “so it wouldn’t hurt the little guys.”
After reviewing the state constitution, Sarah Elkins said that she also agrees that funding for this sort of endeavor should not come from the City. “I do think that it is a valid organization, with a valid mission, but I think it [the funding] has to come from its own members,” said Elkins.
In other news:
• The speed limit for McElhenny Road has been changed to 25 mph following a vote by council. It was requested that the state place updated signage along McElhenny with this new speed limit.
• Valerie Pritt was appointed to another three-year term on the Planning Commission with a unanimous vote.
• Dr. Bonny Copenhaver, president of the New River Community and Technical College, gave a detailed report to council on the ongoings within the school. She announced that the Greenbrier Valley Campus is now the schools largest campus, beating the Raleigh County Campus by a number of students.
• After a lengthy executive session, council renewed the city employee health benefits for another year.
• A total of $106,159.05 was approved in a change order to “relocate the structure” of the water pipe intake further onto the city’s property at the request of the DNR.
• An across-the-board fifty cent an hour raise was approved by council with a total annual cost of over $89,000 annually to the city. The pay scale for city employees will be updated to reflect this amount.
• An automatic mutual aid agreement was approved at the request of Lewisburg Fire Chief Joey Thomas. This agreement has been in place for a number of years but is re-approved annually.