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TRUMBULL COUNTY Court hearing to earmark disputed tourism funds



Published: Fri, June 10, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



WARREN -- A hearing in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court today aims to earmark disputed county tourism dollars for a handful of summertime events.

A settlement of the $160,000 issue between Trumbull County commissioners and the closed, 24-year-old Trumbull County Convention & amp; Visitors Bureau has been in the works for several months.

Visiting Judge Thomas P. Curran recently issued an opinion that "it is imperative for prompt disbursement of funds for the betterment of Trumbull County in advance of the upcoming summer season."

The settlement proposed in April by Jason Earnhart, assistant county prosecutor, under the auspices of Judge Curran, would distribute about $160,000 in withheld lodging tax money to event sponsors. Atty. Jeffrey Kurz has said the visitors bureau board has voted in favor of settling its lawsuit regarding past lodging tax funds it claims are due.

"This is so the majority of the money can be distributed to entities in the community that promote commerce and good things," Earnhart said.

Who's getting the funding

Among the beneficiaries will be the Trumbull County Fair Board. Fair President Richard Roscoe said Wednesday that commissioners have earmarked $5,000 of the disputed funds for the event.

Also on the funding list as of Thursday were the Thunderplex in Vienna, Scrappers baseball and Eastwood Field in Niles, Cabela King Kat fishing event on Mosquito Lake, Crappie USA Tournament Trail and the Packard car museum in Warren, among others. Exact dollar amounts were not available.

The remaining balance, however, must be given to the Trumbull County Metro Parks system, the commissioners insist. "Our concept was, they would get everything that was left," Earnhart said.

Also, the commissioners oppose directly paying the visitors bureau's lawyer.

"We will not agree to the money being spent for anything other than events in Trumbull County -- because that's what the money was collected for in the first place," Earnhart said.

The county, however, would agree to buy the closed bureau's equipment, and that may generate enough money to pay its bills.

Not seeing eye to eye

There was more than a year's worth of friction between commissioners and the former Convention & amp; Visitors Bureau over board membership appointments and investment of county lodging tax money.

Commissioners wanted to be in charge of board appointments, so in May established a new entity, called the Trumbull County Tourism Board, to receive 2 percent of the county's lodging tax.

A new three-member tourism board has organized itself, with Trumbull County Commissioner Daniel Polivka as chairman, county Treasurer Christ Michelakis as vice chairman and commissioners' clerk Paulette Godfrey as recording secretary.

Polivka on Wednesday was working up a sweat as the interior was being cleaned up at the soon-to-be tourism office, next to the board of elections at 2931 Youngstown Road S.E. Soon it will have signs directing people to the office for information, and brochure stands touting events happening in the county, he said.

Commissioners also plan to have an "office of volunteerism" upstairs to assist with mailings and events, Polivka noted.

Billie Jo Zimmerman of the Youngstown-Mahoning Convention & amp; Visitors Bureau will be retained on a $1,500 month-to-month basis to help with promoting the county and distributing pamphlets.




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