Kirsten Mustain

Grove Sun

Grove City Council enacted a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA) concerning the possible construction of a fishing tournament complex at the 16th Street Boat Ramp and tabled a decision regarding the proposed hotel/motel tax at a regular meeting Tuesday night.

Superintendent of GRDA Ecosystems Management Dr. Darrell Townsend, Ph.D. told the council that when City Manager Bruce Johnson had approached GRDA about building the complex in Grove, GRDA had been “very interested.”

Johnson has offered to match GRDA funds in order to bring the project to Grove.

“When we began looking at the amount of money it would take to fix a parking area, maintain the fisheries, et cetera, we saw that we would need to partner with other folks to make this a reality,” Townsend said.

According to his figures, the complex would draw a large amount of revenue to the Grove area.

He noted that Grand Lake is already very popular with bass fishermen.

“This would be a state-of-the-art facility that would put Grove on the map, so to speak, for bass tournaments. There is great potential here,” Townsend said.

He noted that the average angler spends $125 per day in local establishments during tournaments.

The tournaments are expected to bring approximately 38,000 fishermen to the area annually should the project be finished. He said this would bring an estimated $5 million in revenue each year.

Johnson explained that currently the city does not have the funds to match GRDA, but that entering into the MOU with GRDA would make the city’s intention of opening up discussion on the subject official. The MOU is not binding in any way.

In other business, the council tabled a decision about when to bring the proposed hotel/motel tax to the voters.

The tax would be applied to rents on hotel and motel rooms in Grove corporate limits.

It was noted by council members and citizens that a similar tax is paid by tourists in every other town that they are aware of.

Grove Chamber Director Lisa Friden said her organization would very much like to see the tax passed.

“The Chamber has thought this was critical for 10 years,” she said.

Grove residents voted the measure down the last time it was on the ballot.

City staff members reworked the proposition so that it no longer includes RV Parks and it is more specific about designating the revenue to be spent specifically to improve Grove as a tourist destination, according to citizens’ wishes.

Best Western Manager Louann Ford said that according to her figures the tax would add $4.40 to the average room payment at her establishment and that in 2009 it would have given the city $40,000 in extra revenue.

Council members and citizens said they felt the proposition needed a few more revisions before citizens vote on it.

It will be back on the agenda at a special city council meeting Monday.

Johnson and the council will decide at that time when they want to put the proposal on the ballot.

City officials all agreed that they did not want it to go to voters at the same time as the county’s jail tax proposal, so the ballot date will fall in either November or December.

In the meantime, council members will hone the proposal to fit the community’s needs and educate the public about what the passage of the proposal would mean to the city.

A contract with the Grove YMCA for the provision of swimming lessons at the new aquatic center caused some contention between the council members.

The contract stipulates that YMCA members and non-members be charged the same amount for swimming lessons, rather than giving YMCA members a discounted rate according to YMCA wishes.

“There should be one rate for all. The city shouldn’t treat members and non-members differently,” Ward III Council Member Larry Parham said.

Ward I Council Member Ed Trumbull moved to accept the contract, but to change the language that required members and non-members pay the same rate. Ward II Council Member Marty Follis seconded the motion, but the other three council members voted the motion down.

Both Trumbull and Follis felt that YMCA members should receive a discount as part of their membership.

After much discussion, the council voted three to two to accept the contract as it was written, with members and non-members paying the same rate, with Trumbull and Follis casting the two dissenting votes.