IMG_6451Brittney Raby – Staff Writer

The Franklin Tourism Development Authority reported the sixth consecutive month of record high room occupancy tax collections. For the month of February, the Franklin TDA collected $5,152.04, a $232.77 increase over 2014-15 and the highest collection since 2010-2011. To date, from July 1 though February, the Franklin TDA has collected $76,423.34 in room occupancy tax, which is a $7,721.21 increase over the same time period last fiscal year.

“We are showing yet another record month in tax collections and we are hoping to see this trend continue through the end of the year, said Franklin Town Manager and TDA member Summer Woodard.

TDA board members voted to approve a $620.60 request from the Franklin Appalachian Trail Community Council (ATCC) for a banner advertising Franklin Trail Days. The banner, which is currently hanging across Main Street and will remain up until April 23, the last day of the month-long celebration, highlights the celebration period and welcomes hikers to towns. Bill VanHorn with the ATCC explained that the $620.60 from the TDA, along with grant funds from the the North Carolina License Plate program, will cover the full cost of the banner and insurance required to hang it.

The TDA voted 4-1 to approve the request with TDA member Josh Drake voting against the request.

“I just don’t think we should be spending dollars to advertise Franklin inside of Franklin,” said Drake.

“I think the majority of the room occupancy taxes we have collected in March, April, and May have been because of hikers,” said TDA Donnie Bishop. “I think we should do everything we can to promote the trail and hiking.”

The TDA unanimously voted to deny a grant request made by Suzanne Harouff of Books Unlimited for her newsletter. Harouff, who produces a Books Unlimited newsletter for her business, requested funds to help cover the cost of the advertisement. The newsletter includes four pages of information on the Main Street business, one page of which Harouff reserved for advertising local festivals such as Airing of the Quilts and the Scottish Tartans Festival. The $1,000 request was denied by the TDA, with  members citing the advertisement predominantly focused on Harouff’s business rather than the festivals.

The Smoky Mountain Pregnancy Care Center submitted a grant request in the amount of $3,500 for their 4th annual Bloemsma Barn event fundraiser. This year, the SMPCC plans to put on a concert featuring nationally recognized gospel bluegrass band Mountain Faith.  SMPCC’s grant request cited an anticipated 1,500-2,000 concert attendees, boosting tourism to Macon County.

Drake expressed concern with the TDA funding an event that is slated to produce a significant net profit. “We typically don’t fund events that are going to be profitable, and instead use our funds and resources to help foster things that are getting started to help them grow,” said Drake.

While Drake voiced concerns with the request, the TDA won’t vote on the funding request until their next meeting, which is scheduled for May 9 at 5:30 p.m. at town hall.