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Uniting to aid tourism -- sort off
Sandy White works in her office. - photo by Courier file photo
Hinesville, Flemington and Liberty County have agreed to share almost a quarter million in tax dollars to aid tourism, but a law could paralyze the effort by slapping heavy restrictions on their spending.  
From this intergovernmental agreement, a non-profit organization will be created within the next 90 days to collectively allocate money for tourism, and the money will come from a piece of a five percent hotel/motel tax, Liberty County tourism coordinator Sandy White said.
The first three percent can be used by local governments for general funding, and the other two percent needs to go to tourism, City Manager Billy Edwards said.
Out of this two percent, $150,000 to $200,000 will go to the new organization, yet a state law dictates it can only spend the money on the promotion and advertisement of tourism in the area.  
“In my opinion, this dated law is defeating the purpose of what we’re trying to do in the area,” White said. “Some of our tourist attractions need upkeep, but they lack the funding because the money is only going to their promotion.”
This 30-year-old law (which is currently under review) does make some sense because the advertising and promotion is supposed to increase the visitation, which in turn, is supposed to raise the revenue of these attractions so they can take care of their own upkeep, she said. But this is not always the case, especially There are benefits in creating this organization because it will consolidate the money from Hinesville, Flemington and the unincorporated portion of Liberty County. It will streamline the money, and it can be used more efficiently in the future, Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kenny Smiley said.
“We hope to install electronic, touch-screen kiosks for citizens and tourists to use to explore some of the sites around the county,” White said. “Also, we will make sure there is no overlap on how we spend the money to advertise the various attractions around the county.”
The lion’s share of this tax funding will come from the hotels and motels of Hinesville and Flemington because there is only one bed and breakfast in the unincorporated area, Melon Bluff.
Annually, the county receives about $2,500 from this tax, chief financial officer Kim McGlothlin said.
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