Tourism

County Council pledges money for wayfinding signs

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The Montgomery County Council pledged more than $41,000 for wayfinding signs Tuesday and suggested raising the innkeeper’s tax to generate the money.

The funding would support the first phase of the project installing seven gateway signs and signs for Crawfordsville destinations, attractions and parking. Signs will also be available for the towns, which have to provide their own funding. The total cost for the entire project is $300,000, including manufacturing and installation.

Traverse City, Michigan-based Corbin Design is leading the project to promote tourism in the county. The project is backed by Crawfordsville Main Street, the Montgomery County Visitors and Convention Bureau, the City of Crawfordsville and the Montgomery County Convention and Visitors Commission.

Main Street program manager Sue Lucas told a supportive council the signs are a consistent approach to drawing visitors to local attractions.

“It communicates the idea that you have people working together, they’re proud of their community and we want you to go to these outlying towns to explore our communities,” she said.

Visitors and convention bureau director Heather Shirk said the “long overdue” signs are “another way for us to tell our story better.”

The innkeeper’s tax, which is paid by people who book short-term hotel or bed and breakfast stays, is designed to fund tourism-related projects.

The council appears poised to raise the rate to 5% from the current 3%, which is among the lowest in the state. The move would bring Montgomery County in line with surrounding areas.

“I really think that we’re doing a disservice to the citizens of the county by not charging or having a higher innkeeper’s tax,” said councilman Don Mills, who raised the idea of upping the rate.

This isn’t the first time the council has considered charging more for accommodations over the years. The hotel industry generally opposes higher innkeeper’s taxes because they argue it will increase room rates. Federal stimulus money could also pay for the signs.

In other business, county treasurer Heather Laffoon reported that property tax collections are up $1.35 million over last year, when taxpayers received an extension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The council also:

• Approved a request from Sheriff Ryan Needham to spend $19,904.70 from the commissary fund to purchase an inmate partition for a transport van. The commissary fund can be used to cover equipment costs.

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