Debbie Speakman of Homer, a contracted consultant for the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council, provides public testimony in support of an ordinance providing a $150,000 grant to the council during Tuesday’s Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting, on Nov. 5, 2019, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo By Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Debbie Speakman of Homer, a contracted consultant for the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council, provides public testimony in support of an ordinance providing a $150,000 grant to the council during Tuesday’s Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting, on Nov. 5, 2019, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo By Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Tourism council gets funding, objectives approved by assembly

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly awarded $150,000 to the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council at Tuesday night’s meeting.

The $150,000 will be appropriated from the borough general fund balance to the council to promote tourism in areas of the borough outside the cities.

The grant money came with conditions requiring the council to present objectives on how the council plans to use the money to promote local tourism. Those objectives were approved during Tuesday’s assembly meeting.

The council’s objectives are to develop and implement strategies for attracting online impressions and conversions, and tracking conversions of impressions to sales in the tourism markets, and to promote significant increases in tourism during the shoulder seasons.

The council is working to promote the shoulder season — which takes place in spring and early summer and fall, Speakman said, especially after the Swan Lake Fire curbed tourism on the peninsula last summer.

The grant money comes after several attempts to fund the council.

Mayor Charlie Pierce has vetoed the grant money twice. The first veto was during the FY 2020 budget process when Pierce zeroed out the $100,000 tourism marketing council funds provided in years past. The money was amended back into the budget by the assembly, but was successfully vetoed by Pierce in June. An ordinance funding a $150,000 grant to the council was passed by the assembly in November. Pierce attempted to veto the funds, but was overridden at the December assembly meeting.

In a December letter announcing the veto, Pierce said the grant was a special appropriation outside of the budget cycle that is $50,000 more than the original $100,000 that was proposed in the borough’s FY 2020 budget, which is “setting bad precedent.” In his letter, Pierce said the council’s impact on the tourism industry is highly speculative. He said in his letter that he has not seen any data showing they have increased tourism in the borough.

Only one member of the public spoke to the passing of the resolution. Duane Bannock of the Uptown Motel in Kenai spoke on the resolution at the end of the meeting, saying the council lacked “real, measurable efforts.”

“I challenge this assembly, I challenge the mayor: measure,” Bannock said. “Make standards that can then be graded.”

Bannock asked the mayor to veto the resolution.

Since the 1990s, the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council has been funded by the borough. In FY 2019, the borough provided the council with $100,000. In the FY 2018 budget, the borough supported the council with $305,980 in funds, and $340,00 in FY 2017.

Reach Victoria Peterson at vpetersen@homernews.com.

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