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West Point talks about ending tourism contract

WEST POINT — The West Point City Council seems on board to vote to terminate its contract with the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce to handle its hotel/motel taxes.

City Manager Ed Moon said West Point brings in about $7,500 a year, and the contract would terminate retroactively to June 30. That June 30 date would serve as a stopping point to any funds going to the chamber, and Moon said he hadn’t sent any funds since then.

The council is expected to vote to terminate the contract Monday night. However, after the contract is ended, the council will still need to find an entity to handle its hotel/motel tax, which serves as marketing dollars for the city.

Moon said $7,500 a year isn’t much money, but it is very restrictive as to how cities can use it.

“We can go to the (Greater Valley Area Chamber of Commerce), or there could be another organization like the new (Visit LaGrange) that could do it for us,” he said.

Mayor Steve Tramell said Monday’s vote would only signify that the city is holding on to its marketing dollars until it decides what organization it wants to handle it.

In July, the LaGrange City Council decided not to renew its contract with the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber, which has managed the city’s tourism budget for the past 28 years. The chamber also had similar agreements with West Point and Hogansville.

LaGrange announced it would appoint a convention and visitors bureau to oversee tourism funding.

In August, Hogansville also ended its contract with the chamber but hadn’t decided what to do with its hotel/motel tax as of earlier this week.

Also, on Thursday, Moon said the city received an application from Mike and Kesha Coniglio for $170,000 out of the city’s revolving loan fund. The fund is part of a grant given to the city through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs for community development.

Moon said the applicants applied for the funds to purchase and renovate 709 4th Ave. in downtown West Point for an event center.

Kesha Coniglio qualified to run for city council but turned in the completed application for the revolving loan fund the day before she qualified.

Moon said the DCA and West Point City Attorney Jeff Todd said there is no conflict of interest.

“The conflict is for city officials and city employees, and she is neither a city official or city employee at this point,” he said.

Tramell said the loan fund was initially for $500,000 when it was first granted to the city about eight years ago. The first loan was given to Johnny’s Pizza to renovate its current space. The money has essentially turned into a mortgage for Johnny’s and the city has gotten about $170,000 back into its coffers.

Tramell said the city must loan it back out to somebody or the DCA will take it back.

Moon said the deadline to loan the money to another user has passed but since the city has this application, the DCA is working with the city.

Moon requested on Monday that the city contract with a consultant to review the application and make a recommendation to the city. He did not give a recommendation to the council on who to hire as said consultant.