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Museums to get help from new grant funding

The Raney House plans to apply for monies to fortify the
deteriorated columns in the front.

The Carrabelle History Museum would like an elevator, and
the Camp Gordon Johnston World War II Museum wants to pave their driveway.

The Crooked River and Cape St. George lighthouses, the
Apalachicola Center for History, Culture and the Arts, they likely will apply
as well, for the first ladle of infrastructure monies to come out from a
larger, half again as big, pot of lodging tax revenue for the upcoming fiscal
year, the first full year the tax on short-term rentals will have gone from 2
to 3 percent.





The Tourist Development Council has budgeted $100,000 for
the new museum grants, which can be for any amount and any number of yearly grants,
provided they don’t exceed $25,000 to any one organization in a given year.

“Every entity needs infrastructure help, infrastructure is
what keeps the lights on,” said TDC Director John Solomon. “If we don’t have
infrastructure, we don’t have tourism.”

Because this is new money, from what is expected to be a
minimum of $750,000 over this year’s more than $1.4 million receipts, which no
question have exceeded last year’s revenues, as the fiscal year heads to a
close Sept. 30.

The last report Solomon provided the county commissioners,
in early August, showed that May 2021 receipts, when the tax was still at 2
percent, were at more than $276,000, more than twice the year before, and the
first May to cross the $200,000 threshold. With June and July, the two biggest
summer months, still to come in, this year’s take is running about a
half-million dollars ahead of last year, and could near or exceed the $2
million mark.

Solomon said the new grant program will have no effect on
the whole range of other infrastructure needs at county-owned sites, such as
Buddy Ward Seafood Park on the former Lombardi Property, and the Armory. At
their last meeting, as they unanimously backed the museum grant program,
commissioners also shifted management responsibility for the Armory to the TDC.

The way the new program works is that the TDC wants to
remain in the business of reimbursing costs to non-profit-operated museums,
while staying out of the required bidding and selection process.

County Finance Director Erin Griffith will review the
initial application to verify it meets legal requirements, and will then hand
the proposals over to the TDC. “We’re going to review the need, the bids and
the costs,” said Solomon.

Any projects over $10,000 must have bids, he said, and the
work must be completed by Sept 15. of that fiscal year

“This is to help our major tourist attractions, which are
our museums and our history,” Solomon said. “I’m excited we can provide more
assistance to our non-profits.”



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