A normally routine matter — disbursing tourism and convention funds — turned into a discussion about how Iola is supporting the Bowlus Fine Arts Center.
City Council members approved Monday doling out a combined $62,500 to various groups, including the Iola Area Chamber of Commerce, Buster Keaton Celebration and Iola Rotary.
Included in the list was a $20,000 disbursement to the Bowlus Fine Arts Center.
Council members Jon Wells and Aaron Franklin noted this was the second consecutive year Iola has given tourism funding to the Bowlus, on top of $30,000 from its general fund.
“I completely support the idea of supporting the Bowlus, but convention and tourism funding is not predictable,” Franklin noted.
If the Bowlus needs a similar combined amount in future years, the Council should set up its budget so the funding comes from a single source, Franklin said.
Wells agreed, noting the Bowlus, Chamber and Allen County Historical Society take up a lion’s share of the tourism funding.
By freeing up tourism funds, the city could more easily consider replacing the Molly Trolley, “which was old the day we bought it,” Iolan Donna Houser noted.
The tourism funding is generated through an excise tax assessed for motel usage in Iola.
The disbursement breakdown: Veterans Day Parade, $1,500; Buster Keaton Celebration, $2,500; Farm-City Days, $2,500; Iola Area Chamber of Commerce, $30,000; Bowlus Fine Arts Center, $20,000; Pickleball League, $1,000; Aging With Attitude Regional Expo, $400; Southwind Rail Trail, $750; CIFT/PRIDE Committee, $2,000; Rotary Day in the Park, $1,000; Lehigh Roots Festival, $1,000.
The figures do not include the approximately $22,000 disbursement to the Allen County Historical Society. The city allocates one-quarter of the tourism funding for ACHS.
Of note, the city did not give out any money for the trolley, with the hopes of holding onto cash reserves for a couple of years to buy a new one.
The trolley generates revenue through rentals for such things as weddings and tours, Houser said, but the vehicle has several mechanical issues due to its age and heavy use.
Buying a new one will cost in the neighborhood of $100,000.
This fall’s Buster Keaton Celebration also will be its last.
The vote to disburse the tourism funds passed, 7-0, with Councilman Bob Shaughnessy absent.
COUNCIL members approved demolition orders for houses at 322 S. Chestnut St. and 524 North St.
Both houses had previously been condemned and slated for demolition. Both also had been virtually destroyed by fire.
Darrell Cole, who lived in the house on South Chestnut, asked the Council for a week or two for time to clear out any salvageable items.
Code Enforcement Officer Gregg Hutton noted the process of seeking bids for the demolition will take about three weeks, anyway, giving him ample time to retrieve items from the charred ruins.
THE COUNCIL ALSO:
— Approved a contract for Collection Bureau of Kansas to act on the city’s behalf to collect past-due utility and Iola Municipal Court fees. Upon a previous request by the Council, City Clerk Roxanne Hutton said Iola would be unable to voluntarily surrender 30 percent of the past-due court fines, thus avoiding surcharges for those debts. State law mandates the city collect 100 percent of what it’s owed. The city will give CBK 30 percent of any money the agency helps collect for past-due utility bills.
— Approved a request from the Allen County Relay For Life to reserve the Recreation Community Building at Riverside Park in case of rain on the June 3 relay. If the weather cooperates, the relay will be on the courthouse square.
— Accepted the resignation of Douglas Campbell with the Iola Police Department.
— Took no action following a 15-minute executive session to discuss real estate acquisition.
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