Andrew Trzaska | January 24, 2012
With the start of 2012, positions on several countywide standing committees had open seats for citizens. Muskegon County’s board of commissioners confirmed a list of appointment at Tuesday’s full board meeting.
Each committee has a different planning focus, and can help influence policy goals and recommendations of the county commission.
For instance, the Airport Advisory Committee and Lakeshore Museum Board steer the Muskegon County Airport and Lakeshore Museum Center’s activities.
Those appointed to the county’s 19 committees often bring strategic views or advocacy to the table. As an example, Chris Zahrt’s leading role in the Michigan Irish Music Festival brings an event-planning perspective to the Accommodations Tax Committee discussions, because that tax goes to promoting tourism. To ensure certain interests are represented, “slots” are given to different professions, public/private status or other criteria.
Some of the newly appointed committee terms last two years, from the beginning of 2012 to the end of 2013. Other terms last three years, finishing on 12/31/2014.
See below for a listing of all new committee appointments made this month (plus the slot type the person filled):
1. Accommodations Tax; term 1/1/12 – 12/31/14
- Rasheedah Gillespie-Muhammed (At-Large)
- Chris Zahrt (Festivals & Events)
2. Airport Advisory; term 1/1/12 – 12/31/13
- Richard Dolack (City of Norton Shores)
- Scott Erdman (Private Sector)
- Roger Wade (Public Sector)
- Robert Wygant (Private Sector)
3. Lakeshore Coordinating Council; term 1/12/12 – 12/31/13
- L. Scott McNeill (Public Sector)
4. Lakeshore Museum Board; term 1/1/12 – 12/31/14
- Velma Phillips (Public Sector)
5. MSU District Extension Council; term 1/1/12 – 12/31/14
- Kay Deuster (Public Sector)
6. Solid Waste Planning Committee; term 1/1/12 – 12/31/13
- Kim Arter (Laketon Township)
- Stephanie Barrett (Public Sector)
- Jim Fisher (Industrial)
- Russ Jones (Solid Waste Management)
- Jill Montgomery-Keast (Public Sector)
- Vicki Webster (Public Sector)
- Gerald Wing (Public Sector)
- Doug Wood (Solid Waste Management)
7. White River Zoning; term 1/1/12 – 12/31/14
- Thomas West (Public Sector)
Accomodations Tax Disputes Lead To New Set Of Guidelines
The accommodations tax is a special tax levied on all hotel and motel room stays in Muskegon County is generally used to further promote tourism for the county. In the past year, recommendations made by the committee under its now-defunct Community Promotions Sponsorship Program sparked a debate on how festivals like Miss Michigan and Muskegon Heights’ Festival In The Park should receive these funds.
The newly created Tourism Event Marketing Program is intended to better define the criteria by which accommodations tax dollars are distributed. The program exists as a set of guidelines for the committee to assess how much tourism income and exposure the event could bring to the county.
Among the defined guidelines in the new program: how much state and national press the event in question might generate, how many hotel rooms might be booked by people attending the event and a minimum of 2,500 people must from outside the county to attend the event.
Applicants for funds can receive up to $3,000 dollars, with deadlines of August 1 for November-April events, and February 1 for May-October events.
“There was not a good process before,” said District 11 commissioner Bob Scolnik, who oversees the Community Development and Strategic Planning committee who recommended the Tourism Event Marketing Program vote instatement. “The tax committee had no guidelines as [we] saw last year with multiple events.”