Funds tapped for book

RIDGEWAY – During its regular meeting Thursday evening, Council scrapped a plan it initiated last month to tap the Town’s hospitality tax revenue to publish a book chronicling the Town’s history and then funnel the profits from the sale of the book into the general fund.

After being informed by the state’s Municipal Association that, according to state statute, any profits from a book funded with H-tax revenue would have to be returned to the H-tax fund and not to the general fund, Council voted unanimously on at its March meeting to rescind last month’s motion.

There was also a backlash from merchants about the use of hospitality funds for the book.

Merchant Robbie Martin, who owns both the Cotton Yard Market and Palmer Street Market, asked Council during scheduled public comments to save the hospitality tax revenue for much needed restrooms merchants want built in the former police station on Palmer Street.

“I think the hospitality tax, to me, is being collected from people that come to Ridgeway and we want to make it more hospitable for anyone that visits here. Using it for anything other than something that gives back to the people that are actually funding it seems like it’s not as appropriate,” Martin said.

Mayor Charlene Herring cited concerns from local merchants as well, stating that she had met with them the evening prior to the Council meeting.

“The merchants are concerned that we are spending some of the hospitality tax money even though the money belongs to the Town. We should save that (money) for the restroom facilities. I would like to see it come out of the general fund just from the conversations I had with the merchants last night,” Herring said.

Councilman Heath Cookendorfer disagreed.

“The hospitality money is paid by a select few, not by the masses,” Cookendorfer said. “It is the Town’s money to spend as they see appropriate, so I would rather see it come out of the hospitality money than the general fund. That’s my opinion, because it is going toward tourism.”

Council narrowly passed, by a 3-2 vote, a new motion to withdraw money for the book’s publication from the town’s general fund and return any profits from the book’s sales back to the general fund as prescribed by state statute. Council members Angela Harrison and Heath Cookendorfer voted against the new measure.

“Right now I think our money could be better spent on other things,” Harrison said. “We’ve got a lot of projects going on in town and we don’t know how long it would take to sell those books to actually recoup what we’re taking out. I think that was my main question, I’m not against the book itself, it’s just we’re not sure how long it will take to get the money back.”

Herring explained that a Ridgeway history has been in the works for years and is one of the Historical and Cultural Committee’s top priorities. She told The Voice that the Town got bids from three printers and that By Far Graphic Design of Columbia submitted the lowest bid, $2,271, to publish 125 copies of a 100-page paperback history of Ridgeway. The cost to the Town would be $18.17 per copy which would include $1,200 for printing, $975 for designing pages and scanning photos and $95 tax. Herring said if the Town sells the book for $20 per copy, the total profit would be $229.

“If we price it higher, then our profit would increase,” Herring said. “I hope it will be on the market prior to Christmas.”

The other two bidders were Another Printer ($3,000 +) and R. R. Donnelley ($1,200 plus $55 per hour for scanning photos.)