County tourism dollars fund donations to museums

By Trudy Balcom

CARBON COUNTY — So far, 2016 has not been a year with much in the way of good economic news in Carbon County.

Tourism, however, continues to offer a bright spot, and adds much needed fuel to the local economy.

Carbon County Visitors Council announced this week that a “marked increase” in the Carbon County lodging tax revenues for fiscal 2015-16 has provided enough funds to allow the CCVC board of directors to provide $44,000 in donations to local museums.

“Each of our museums and our state historic site, Fort Fred Steele, is a valued Carbon County tourist attraction,” CCVC Executive Director Leslie Jefferson said in a press release.

“We are the entity that manages the two percent lodging tax in Carbon County. The increase in our lodging tax (revenue) was in fiscal year 2015-2016, which encompasses July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016,” Jefferson said in an email.

“(T)he increase in lodging tax revenue was related to the increase in lodging during the last half of 2015…the lodging tax is collected by hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts and campgrounds on any overnight stay less than 30 days,” Jefferson explained.

A 2015 statewide travel impact study showed that the average visitor to Carbon County stays 2.81 nights and spends about $241 dollars a day, which adds up to about $14 in tax revenue per day per visitor.

Each museum location received $4,000 to spend as the manager and board of directors sees fit. Jefferson and members of her board handed out the donations between June 15 and July 1.

At the Parco-Sinclair Museum in Sinclair, no decision has yet been made as to how the funds will be spent.

“I let the mayor and council know that we got this nice donation. It was a nice surprise,” said Lezlee Musgrave, Sinclair town clerk-treasurer. Musgrave said that the museum board had not yet met since the donation was made.

At Little Snake River Museum, director Lela Emmons said that the extra funds would be spent on advertising, including a new sign and a reprint of brochures that got a fresh design last year. The sign, Emmons said, “hasn’t been done in years.”

Emmons also said that recent weeks have brought more visitors than usual to the museum.

“The last week has been one of our busiest weeks ever,” she said.

The Visitors Council board of directors, Jefferson said, knew by last December that they would have some extra dollars.

“They decided they would give it back to the community. A huge part of our attractions are the museums,” Jefferson said.

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