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Midway City Council Discusses Zermatt Grant Request And Tourist Transit Issues

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Midway City
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A request by Zermatt Resorts for $30,000 in a business grant was not voted on by Midway City Council at Tuesday’s council meeting. However, the request did jumpstart a conversation around how the city ought to spend transient room tax and transportation issues in the city.

Midway Mayor Celeste Johnson outlines the transportation issue Zermatt is asking the city help for in their $30,000 ask.

“When large groups come into town either for skiing or some other events, they typically are brought into town on a chartered bus or on some sort of system that doesn't require them to rent-a-car,” Johnson explained. “They get to Midway and they need to go to the ski resorts or to their venues and we don't have options for that. Especially for large groups. We do have Uber options, the resorts all have small vans, but the groups that are being brought in are 200 to 300 people. Maxine Jensen from the Zermatt prepared just for our information some numbers with the suggestion that perhaps because of what is happening at our resorts, we take some of the money especially perhaps TRT funds or money that's being generated as a result of these large groups, and reinvest it back in the form maybe of a grant that could help a resort.”

City Staffer Brad Wilson addressed the council pointing out two issues with the request from Zermatt. One is that there’s not currently a process on how to determine who receives money from the city. The other need is a process to ensure the money is used for what it has been designated for. Council member Lisa Kohler Orme says how the city proceeds is critical.

“If we give Zermatt $30,000, we're setting ourselves up for precedent with every business in town,” Kohler Orme continued. “They all put into the tax base. The Homestead across the street, they have a lot of rooms. We already have some issues with TRT and some of the business owners scrutinizing where every penny's going and that they're not getting money. I think we are setting ourselves up a little bit for more of that.”

Transient Room Taxes are collected from temporary lodging throughout the state of Utah. Midway City anticipates that in Fiscal Year 2020 they will receive $110,000 in Transient Room Tax. Mayor Johnson and Council member Kohler Orme discussed how the funds should be used.

“I think moving forward I would like to see something where that specific money is reinvested somehow,” Johnson said. “How we reinvest it would be the process that we would have to come up with.”

“I agree and that's great but also the amount of people that come in that give us that TRT cost us a lot,” Kohler Orme added. “So, I agree that we should reinvest, I really do. But I think that we really need to be thoughtful on how much, and how it's dispersed. Because I would feel a lot more comfortable going in on some kind of a transportation system to get people down to the businesses from the hotels. I'm all for helping but we need to help all of them and that's what’s really hard.”

Midway City is already looking at other options to solve transportation issues. Midway is part of the Connecting Wasatch transit study. The study is under the direction of the Mountainlands Association of Governments and is a cooperative effort amongst several government entities including Midway, Heber, Wasatch County and Park City. As we’ve reported the study recently kicked off with an online survey which asks questions about transit needs within Wasatch County and transit needs connecting Wasatch County to Utah and Summit Counties. You can find that survey here.

Kohler Orme adds that Heber Valley Office of Tourism is also looking at solutions for transportation issues for tourists.

“That office is also looking at this,” Kohler Orme explained. “There's been some suggestions that of what is working in other areas, to do small vans, to do all kinds of different things. So it is being discussed and addressed on many levels.”

The city council agreed to move forward on the issue possibly putting a process in place for applying for TRT money.

KPCW reporter David Boyle covers all things in the Heber Valley as well as sports and breaking news.
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