Carbon County officials will lookto see if they can use hotel tax money to help cover the cost of police patrols in Jim Thorpe during large scale events.
During the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday, John McGuire, president of Jim Thorpe Borough Council; Wesley Johnson, borough manager; and Louis Hau, chairman of the Jim Thorpe Planning Commission, approached the board to ask for its help financially.
McGuire said that council sent the commissioners a proposal discussing an option to help cover the expenses of police monitoring during events, such as Fall Foliage weekends.
He noted that the proposal asks the commissioners to raise the county parking lot fees $1. That extra dollar collected, would go to cover the cost of the police patrols on those weekends, when thousands of tourists visit Jim Thorpe.
"We're looking for help for our emergency services," McGuire said. "On a very busy weekend, our number one concern is we need to make sure the people who visit the area are safe. During those high volume weekends, we bring out the majority of our (police) force. It puts a strain on the police budget We are asking for some help financially for those three or four weekends a year.
"We're not trying to make money on this, we just need help."
McGuire added that the Jim Thorpe Area Council of the Chamber of Commerce is also interested in this parking lot proposal because it would help offset their costs of running the events.
Commissioner Charles Getz said that the county parking lot is paid for by the Carbon County taxpayers, not just Jim Thorpe taxpayers.
He added that the county will look into whether or not it can use hotel tax money to cover a portion of Jim Thorpe police department's added expense on those weekends.
He also stressed that he would not be in favor of raising the parking lot fee for this purpose.
Commissioner William O'Gurek, chairman, spoke about the fairness of the matter and said they will look into seeing if anything can be done.
He noted that it wouldn't be fair to municipalities in the county to use a portion of the money strictly for Jim Thorpe.
He added that in respect to the Jim Thorpe Area Council of the Chamber of Commerce, the county has given them $63,000 in hotel tax money over the last few years to help offset the costs associated with the advertising and operations of these events.
"That's a lot of money," O'Gurek said. "From where we sit, we're always looking to help other towns in the county. Besides the chamber, we've spent over $148,000 in hotel tax dollars in this area. We just want to be fair."
O'Gurek also said that the county will talk to Pocono Mountain Visitors Bureau to see if they can use some hotel tax money to help the police department.
McGuire said he understood and is thankful that the county is willing to look into a possible solution.
"There's a lot of possibilities out there," McGuire said. "and I think an open discussion will bring them out so we can come to something that is good for the community."
Commissioner Wayne Nothstein asked if the borough could release how much it costs for the police patrol on one of these weekends.
McGuire said that the borough usually has a full force that day to handle the traffic and also asks for help from other boroughs.
He then passed the question to Johnson, who said he would provide a written report on the costs for one weekend.
It is close to $2,000 in salaries and overtime Johnson noted.
McGuire then said, "We just want these weekends to go right for the people. That's my concern. This is not for the borough, it's just to take care of the safety end."
Nothstein said that he understands, but also knows that people don't realize the financial burden that these large events put on the county, including the maintenance of the park, supplying the paper products for the restrooms, water, and providing the chamber with free space during the event.
He added that the county has also paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to make it safer for visitors by redoing the sidewalks around the train station, installed lighting in the parking lot and more.
Many think we're getting rich on that parking lot, but we have a lot of expenses as well," Nothstein said.
McGuire said that he understands and appreciates the county's efforts to help make it safer for visitors and for their efforts in this matter.
Randall Smith, county administrator, will now speak with the Pocono Mountain Visitors Bureau to see if hotel tax can be used for police patrols.