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Council hears concerns regarding Gridley left out of Tourism BID

The Gridley Herald of Gridley, California

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Butte County Supervisor Steve Lambert was joined by several local business owners, concerned citizens and four representatives of the Gridley Area Chamber of Commerce Monday night as he tried to explain the importance of Gridley being included in the Explore Butte County Tourism BID to the Gridley City Council.

Mayor Frank Hall started the meeting by thanking Lambert for attending. Mayor Hall and Councilman Owen Stiles voted in favor of the Tourism BID on October 19, 2015.

Council members Mayor Pro Tern Bruce Johnson and Councilmen Ray Borges and Jeff Draper voted against the Tourism BID despite the fact that the local motel owners are in favor of the two percent assessment that will only affect their businesses, not other businesses in Gridley. Other businesses benefit when the local motels have visitors to the area as they spend money here whether it is to buy fuel, eat at our restaurants or maybe visit a retail business or two.

Gridley Area Chamber of Commerce board member Kari Wheeler told Council members that the Tourism BID is completely different from the that Gridley used to have.

"To hear there is no draw for Gridley... it should be why you want a Tourism BID. This will not affect businesses except the two motels who are begging to pay the tax. This is totally different from before when all businesses were assessed.

'I hope one of you will be the true hero. We need advertisement for Gridley. We need the draw and tourism. It is only $1.16 per room at motels, that's it.

"We want Gridley to survive, noted and on the map of Butte County Tourism. It must not be wrong if every town in Butte County voted for it except Gridley.

"It only takes one hero to make it possible for Gridley."

Planning Commissioner Robert Wise addressed Mayor Pro Tern Johnson stating, 'You made pre-election statements and I appreciate that. I ask you to look closer. This does not affect the entire tax base. This would not be pulling tax to improve infrastructure of Gridley.

"This is just for two businesses. I've talked to people who are scratching their heads wondering why our Council said there is nothing to do here.

"What about Gray Lodge, what about the County Fair that is held basically in the middle of town."

Wise asked Mayor Pro Tern Johnson to reconsider his vote which would not mean changing his promise to voters.

Interim President of the Gridley Area Chamber of Commerce Eileen Burke-Trent told Council members Gridley is the Gateway to Butte County as she asked them to reconsider their vote and participate in county-wide tourism that will benefit everywhere BUT Gridley as it stands now.

"I am sure we can all help, reconsider your vote. The supervisors are delaying their vote on this while you reconsider. Please vote for the Tourism BID Gridley would benefit from."

Butte County Fair Board President Amy Jernigan let Council know that the fair will suffer if they are not included in tourism BID and will be excluded from any outside advertising for the next five years.

"Knowing that the City and the Fair have worked well in the past, the amount of revenue the fair brings when you consider grocery stores, gas stations, lodging, meals — people spend money here when visiting, I ask you to reconsider."

Saying she represented Moms and families, Maria Espino thanked the Council for the work they signed on for.

"I grew up in East Biggs fishing, floating in ponds and ended up in Los Angeles. I came back for the reason I left, I enjoyed what this great area has to offer. You are not here for your interests. Listen to the people.

"I read about your last meeting. I am a Mom with two toddlers. There is a whole lot happening here. You should know a lot more than I know, of what there is to offer.

"I suggest you visit local businesses, strike up a conversation.

Local merchant Peggy Harshbarger told Council members she travels a lot and sees the tourism tax on her bill.

"It's not a big deal, it's just not," she said.

Supervisor Lambert explained the Hoteliers of Butte County want this to happen.

"Very rarely does a business group come to the County and ask for help."

He explained he had grown up on Sonoma when it was a small town and townspeople felt left out with old farming families wanting more for their area.

Now Sonoma is well known, the second largest tourist attraction in California after Disneyland.

The two percent that Gridley hotels would charge for their portion of the Tourism BID would constitute just $7,000 of the $554,000 budget, a small portion, Lambert explained.

He also explained that Gridley gets so many visitors at Butte County Fair time that there are not enough rooms here, another motel is actually needed at that time and people have to go out of town to stay.

Mayor Pro Tern Johnson asked Lambert if the businesses can join the Tourism BID voluntarily.

Lambert explained that the assessment is not a government tax, it is being collected for the motels who want to be included to which Mayor Pro Tem Johnson stated "It is still a tax."

Supervisor Lambert also explained that Gridley would have a voice on the Tourism BID with most likely a Council member serving on the nine member board which will include a member from Biggs.

Mayor Frank Hall explained to Mayor Pro Tem Johnson, "We are not initiating a tax. We are just collecting it for them," to which he received applause from the audience.

"We are like the bank. The mechanism the hoteliers are asking for," Mayor Frank Hall stated.

Councilman Ray Borges stated, "It is still going to cost people. Still a tax."

Supervisor Lambert asked if Borges had not stayed at a hotel because of a tourism tax to which he answered no.

"I still don't see a draw. I've lived here most of my life and I still don't see a draw," Councilman Borges said.

Supervisor Lambert told Council members that the Lineman's School in Oroville looked at Gridley's Industrial Park first before going to Oroville.

Now the Oroville Inn is being changed into a dormitory for students of the Lineman's School creating a great return to the Oroville downtown merchants.

He also explained if the Council wants out of the Tourism BID in five years they can get out.

City Attorney Tony Galyean explained the City's Parliamentarian procedure as far as bringing an item back for a vote (which was not on the night's agenda) and that it would have to be at the request of one of the Council members who voted "nay."

"A request can be accepted on or before the 10th day from now for a second meeting of the month in order to have the agenda published in time," Galyean explained to Council.

Mayor Pro Tem Johnson stated he had more questions and wanted to do more research to which Galyean answered, "In the event you don't bring it back to the next meeting (November 16) it would have to wait six months."

Butte County Supervisors are waiting for an answer now and will make their vote soon with or without Gridley.

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Original Publication Date: November 4, 2015

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