All about ‘heads in the beds’

Heads in the beds – that’s what funds many tourism and community promotions as well as improvements for area attractions. People who stay in Webster City motels – those heads in the beds – help make many of those endeavors possible with the hotel-motel tax dollars they bring to the community.

Monday night, members of the City Council and Hotel-Motel Tax Board members met to review the hotel-motel grant application and to look at ways they could better facilitate the process.

The tax board meets in the second and fourth quarters of the year to review grant applications and recommend those projects that have met the grant criteria and that have “the demonstrated ability to complete proposed projects.” The grant program accepts applications from both public and private organizations and individuals. The statement of purpose for the tax funds states that successful applications must have at least one of the four following plans:

Direct promotion of the city, its attributes, events or attractions emphasizing the attraction of visitors or new residents;

Construction or enhancements of tourism, infrastructure, amenities or attractions in the city or immediate surrounding area having a direct impact on the city;

Financial support of activities or events which will bring people to the city;

Other tourism enhancement uses approved by the City Council.

The five members of the H-M Tax Board are Pat Westcott, Brian Stroner, Jack Foster, Jean Fox and Robert Shah.

“It’s all about bringing people to town,” Westcott told the council members. “What we need to find out is if we need to expand the definitions.”

Mayor Janet Adams said that in order to expand the parameters of the grant process, the changes would likely have to be put to a vote by local residents. City Attorney Gary Groves agreed with that assessment.

The board members said there seemed to be some lack of understanding of the process and which projects fit the requirements. Council members agreed that there was a perception that the funds were used for just city projects.

“These funds are not just for the city, they are for the community,” said Councilman Jerry Kloberdanz.

Westcott said the board could always use more applications.

“Where are those good ideas? We’ve never had more applications than money to give,” she said.

The H-M Sales Tax fund currently has an estimated balance of $99,261. In its five years of operation, the board has recommended grants totaling $383,916. Approved projects in the 10 rounds of applications have included funds for the Art in Boone River Country sculpture contest, creating an information center at the Wilson Brewer Historic Park; a community marketing plan by the Chamber of Commerce and the Doodlebug Reunion.

Members of the board and City Council agreed that a grant workshop should be established in the near future. City officials will work with the board members to develop a presentation to be offered in the next few weeks. Those interested in applying for the grant funds or learning more about the grants will be invited to attend the workshop session. It was also suggested that a video of the workshop could then be uploaded to the city’s website where it could be viewed.

“I personally came here tonight to thank the board for being volunteers and to recognize what you have done,” said Councilman Geary Meyer. “That’s the first thing we should have told you tonight. “