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County Commission coddles tournament organizers

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Taxpayers in Summit County have paid travel expenses for teams to play in a championship softball tournament in Park City for the past four years, officials say.

But Summit County deputy attorney Jami Brackin now says tournament organizers received that money illegally.

According to Brackin, a portion of the one percent in Restaurant Tax collected on sales of prepared food can only fund tourism promotion or the maintenance of recreation and cultural facilities in the county.

Despite her advice, however, the Summit County Commission balked at denying a request from the Park City Chamber/Bureau for $34,000 to fund softball players’ travel expenses for a fifth consecutive summer.

"It has to be promotion based," Summit County Commissioner Sally Elliott said. "They know that. Why didn’t [the Chamber/Bureau] turn in an application that met that criteria?"

Taxpayers have reportedly funded travel expenses for players to participate in the Triple Crown Fast Pitch World Series in Park City since 2002.

"Is there a way the we can advise them and they can re-write their application perhaps to pass legal muster?" County Commissioner Bob Richer said.

Deputy Summit County attorney Dave Thomas responded, "they need to put in something that says, we’re going to use [Restaurant Tax funding] to promote people coming and watching the games."

"If they’re just going to rewrite this, and do the same thing with it that they say in here, then I think it would be wrong," Summit County Commissioner Ken Woolstenhlme countered.

Restaurant Tax has been collected by Summit County for 15 years and this year nearly $1.4 million was available to nonprofits in the tourism industry. Restaurant Tax Committee chairwoman Tonya Hanson presented a recommendation Wednesday to the County Commission about how those dollars should be spent.

"I hope, under due process of law, everyone is treated equally," Park City Film Series chief Frank Normile said.

Before grants are approved, the Summit County Commission has allowed a few weeks for the Chamber/Bureau, Fly Freestyle and Henefer Little Buckaroo Rodeo, all deemed ineligible by Brackin, to possibly reapply this year for funding from the tax.

But most groups aren’t allowed to resubmit flawed applications, said Normile, who frequently applies for grants from the Restaurant Tax.

The Film Series is poised to receive $5,000 in 2006.

"I wish we had money to fly people to town to watch our concerts," said Randy Barton, the first chair of Mountain Town Stages, who added that the county should reject illegal applications.

Mountain Town Stages, a promoter of free performances in Park City, could receive a $12,000 Restaurant-Tax grant in 2006.

"We’re not talking about in any way trying to subvert the process or the system," said Richer, who also is a member of the Park City Chamber/Bureau board of directors. "We’re just giving them a second chance to redo their grant to conform to the legal review."

But Woolstenhulme is concerned other organizations will want chances to reapply.

Meanwhile, committee members had more Restaurant Tax to divvy out in 2006 than ever before, Hanson said.

"We were able to go a lot farther and a lot deeper in our funding," she said, adding that grant requests from the Main Street Business Alliance and Summit County Friends of Animals should be denied.

Other organizations the committee recommended receive funding in 2006 include:

Sundance Film Festival: $100,000

Park City Chamber/Bureau, for television advertisements: $230,000

Utah Symphony and Opera: $40,000

Utah Ski and Snowboard Association: $100,000

Park City Jazz Foundation: $40,000

US Lacrosse: $11,500

Kimball Art Center: $25,000

Egyptian Theatre: $25,000

Park City Lodging Association: $72,000

Park City Municipal: $60,000

Utah Athletic Foundation: $60,000

Oakley City: $70,000

Park City Performing Arts Foundation: $40,000

Park City Restaurant Association: $120,000

Quinn’s Recreation Complex: $100,000

Main Street Business Alliance, to promote holiday shopping: $25,000

Summit County Historical Society: $14,828

National Ability Center: $15,000

Endurance 100: $15,000

Snyderville Basin Special Recreation District: $29,000

Adopt-A-Native-Elder: $5,000

Park City Chamber Music Society Film Festival: $2,000

Park City Chamber/Bureau, for Winter Fest promotion: $25,000

Park City Literary Council: $15,000

Park City Chamber Music Festival: $4,000

Park City Chamber Music Society Sonolumina: $2,000

North Summit High School: $25,000

Park City Ambassadors: $5,000


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