Chesterton Tribune

Commissioners oppose merging tourism office with Lake County

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By VICKI URBANIK

The Porter County Commissioners have gone on the record -- again -- against any attempt by Lake County to merge the two counties’ tourism bureaus.

In the wake of speculation that another attempt will be made in this session of the Indiana Legislature to consolidate the Lake and Porter county tourism agencies, the three commissioners unanimously adopted a resolution Tuesday opposing such a move. A similar resolution was passed two years ago during another merger attempt.

As of right now,  there appears to be no proposed bill calling for a consolidation, but County Commissioner President Robert Harper said the strong feeling at the Porter County Convention, Recreation and Visitor Commission is that there will be an attempt made later this session to merge the tourism agencies or create a regional tourism entity.

Harper said the PCCRVC has been very conservative with spending its innkeepers tax dollars and that it’s “totally unacceptable” to think that Porter County’s agency should be melded in with Lake County’s. He said according to media reports, the Lake County agency has spent its tax funds on trips and lobbying efforts. “We just don’t spend money that way,” he said.

Harper also expressed outrage that Porter County officials find themselves having to spend time and resources “again and again” fighting Lake County on a possible tourism consolidation.  

North Porter County Commissioner John Evans said that if the two county tourism agencies were merged, Porter County would “lose our voice” in the larger agency.

“It’s great to have regionalism and work with our neighbors,” Evans said, but added that the PCCRVC should retain its uniqueness. “I think we are better off the way we are,” he said.

The commissioners’ resolution, which was also supported by South County Commissioner Carole Knoblock, who said that the goals of the PCCRVC and its Lake County counterpart are not the same. “Both counties are unique in what they offer the tourists,” the resolution says.

If the two bureaus were merged, “simply by the fact that Lake County has such a larger base, it would soon engulf the (PCCRVC), which would then lose its voice in the future,” the resolution says.

The resolution also indicated that with a new regional agency might come “an effort to pass a regional tax, which not only might increase the amount citizens in Porter County were paying, but would also go into an agency where they had less say.”

The resolution states that the commissioners oppose any type of consolidation and that they request that Porter County lawmakers take no action promoting the move.

Earlier at the commissioner meeting Tuesday, the commissioners approved the annual distribution of funds from the PCCRVC’s venue funds. For a number of years, the PCCRVC has been distributing a portion of its budget to other county establishments.

Under the 2009 agreement presented by PCCRVC attorney Dave Hollenbeck, the PCCRVC will distribute $89,100. The Porter County Expo Center, the Memorial Opera House, and the Old Jail Museum will each receive $17,820. The remainder will go toward the Porter County Parks Department.

 

Posted 2/18/2009