Cumberland Times-News

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September 23, 2013

Canal Place appeals to city, county for funding

Vick: Tourism hub not ready to become self-sufficient

CUMBERLAND — While Cumberland Mayor Brian Grim recently opined that he thought Canal Place officials were starting to look outside the box for funding, it appears officials with the struggling agency hope they will once again obtain a key to the hotel/motel tax box.

Both the city of Cumberland and Allegany County have phased out funding for Canal Place from those taxes.

On Sept. 19, though, Andy Vick, chairman of the Canal Place Preservation & Development Authority, asked both government bodies to restore that funding. Vick made the requests in letters to Allegany County Commissioner Michael McKay and Cumberland Mayor Brian Grim, both of whom sit on the Canal Place board of directors.

The situation remains dire, Vick said in the letters to Grim and McKay.

“As you are aware, the ... authority is facing a funding gap for FY 14 (fiscal 2014) and a more serious shortfall for FY 15 and beyond. ... Although Canal Place is working diligently to become financially self-sufficient, we are not there yet, and we continue to need the county’s support to sustain our ongoing operations,” Vick wrote to McKay.

The letter to Grim contained similar language. Vick said the authority uses the funds to pay for grounds upkeep, among other things. He attributed the funding gap primarily to the withdrawal of the hotel/motel tax funds.

Canal Place is facing a loss of more than $100,000 for fiscal 2015.

“Losing this important hotel/ motel funding stream will negatively impact the services that we will be able to provide in the months and years to come,” Vick wrote in the letters.

In previous comments, Grim has rejected the view that the city is hurting Canal Place.

“We have been nothing but a partner with Canal Place,” Grim said recently. McKay has told the Times-News in past interviews that the hope is for Canal Place to be more self-sufficient by establishing alternative revenue sources.

The change in funding has been known for some time, with both the county and city voting to turn off the funding faucet for Canal Place from the hotel/motel taxes during the summer. The Fairfield Inn, which sits on Canal Place property, opened in August 2009. Since then, Canal Place has been receiving hotel/motel tax dollars coming from the Fairfield, as high as $100,000 in some years.

The tax is collected by both the city and Allegany County, and then distributed to Canal Place and other nonprofit entities.

As of fiscal 2015, Canal Place will no longer receive any of the tax dollars.

Dee Dee Ritchie, executive director of the authority, has said she doesn’t think the authority can become self-sufficient anytime soon.

McKay said he will issue a statement before the time of the next scheduled meeting between commissioners, state and city officials with Canal Place leaders, scheduled for Oct. 3.

Payments from the hotel/motel taxes began in fiscal 2010 with the county grant-ing 2 percent of its share of revenue from hotel/motel tax from Fairfield to Canal Place. The funds were to be used for capital upkeep and maintenence of non-hotel lands and were not to be used for operating expenses or personnel, according to the initial agreement.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com. Staff writer Greg Larry contributed to this story.

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