Visit LaGrange to manage Hogansville tourism dollars

Published 11:30 am Wednesday, August 19, 2020

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The city of Hogansville voted Monday to enter an intergovernmental agreement with the  tourism and marketing organization Visit LaGrange. 

After a lengthy discussion, the city voted 4-1 in favor under the pretense that it is a temporary situation until Hogansville can create a tourism and marketing organization of its own.

“Technically, we could be found in violation at any point right now because we are holding that (tourism and marketing) money in our bank account,” said City Manager Jonathan Lynn. “We have not received any notices of violation, but it’s not sitting in our proper bank account right now, so it needs to get somewhere.” 

Hogansville charges a per night hotel-motel tax for lodging purposes. According to Lynn, there are state of Georgia requirements for how the 8 percent tax can be spent and by what type of organization. 

For several years, hotel-motel tax funds were provided to the LaGrange-Troup Chamber of Commerce, and would spend them according to a provided budget by Hogansville. 

That partnership ended in June 2019. 

The city must designate these funds to a DMO (Direct Marketing Organization) to expend the funds for tourism related activities, which Visit LaGrange would do for Hogansville. Visit LaGrange currently does the same for Troup County and LaGrange.

Councilwoman Toni Striblin said instead of moving the tourism money to Visit LaGrange the council should start the process now to create its own 501(c)(6). 

“I think if we’re starting that effort, I don’t think we will be fined,” Striblin said. “I just want to state for the record that we could create our own 501(c)(6) where our smart Hogansville citizens can handle this.”

Mayor Pro-Tem Mandy Neese said it would be easier to go ahead and pay Visit LaGrange and enter the agreement so that they can be in compliance. 

Hogansville would pay $1,200/year ($100/month) to Visit LaGrange that will cover staff time, payment of expenditures, additional audit costs, creation of a Hogansville specific bank account for funds and other associated administrative expenses. This is the same amount

charged to other entities as well. 

“I cannot sit in this chair, knowing that I’m in violation of state law and lead the city into the direction of that even if it is just going to be for a short amount of time,” said councilman Mark Ayers. 

“My personal opinion would be to push forward with this instantly to become compliant. I do like the idea of us running it ourselves. I do like the idea of empowering citizens to do that instead of the council.” 

The City of Hogansville generates approximately $30,000 worth of revenue from hotel-motel taxes and 62.5% of that amount is required to be provided to a DMO, which would be Visit LaGrange.

“What you’re saying is we’re going to pay the $100 per month just to get a bank account,” Striblin said. 

“We have no plan on how to spend this money currently. We have no board currently, and we have no idea what we want to do. We are going to have money in a bank account so that we are compliant, but we’re paying $100 a month for that, that we’re not gonna spend because we don’t have a plan.” 

Neese made a motion to approve the agreement with Visit LaGrange “with the understanding that it is a temporary situation.”

Additionally, during the council meeting Monday, Hogansville voted to keep the mil rate as it is at 7.95 mils. 

The city plans to look over a possible mask ordinance in the coming week once the city of LaGrange discusses and releases theirs Tuesday night. 

Additionally, during the meeting the city discussed the following: 

4The city voted to appoint Vicki Brown to a three-year term to the Troup County Chamber Tourism Committee. 

4John McKibben was reappointed to a five-year term to the Hogansville Development Authority. 

4The city tabled voting on appointments to the Meriwether/Hogansville Joint Development Authority (J.D.A.) and Hogansville Cemetery Board until Sept. 8.