CFA board questions philosophy, funds three projects

A Clark County board approved funding for three local projects Thursday, but members also said there needs to be a discussion of the board’s future spending.

Members of the Clark County Convention Facilities Authority approved funding requests Thursday for separate projects for the Springfield Museum of Art, the Westcott House and the Master Gardeners in Clark County. The board receives funding from a 3-percent tax on hotels and other accommodations countywide.

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Individually, the three projects may not necessarily have a big impact on tourism, said board member Joan Elder. But she said all three collectively make Springfield’s arts and culture scene more attractive to residents and visitors.

Board members voted to approve funding for projects to cover a total of $100,000 for improvements at the Springfield Museum of Art, spread over payments of $20,000 annually for five years. The museum had initially sought $250,000 over five years to cover needed upgrades including a new roof and heating and air conditioning system.

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The Westcott House had asked for a total of $60,000 spread over two years to pay for deferred maintenance, but the board instead voted to provide $20,000 for one year. The Westcott House can make a new request next year for additional funding CFA members said.

The Master Gardeners asked for $50,000 from the CFA as part of a roughly $92,000 project to build a pavilion that would be a centerpiece of their efforts to transform a former golf course into the Snyder Park Gardens and Arboretum. The CFA voted to approve the $50,000 request but split the payments over two years. The funding for all three projects will begin next year.

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The CFA is tasked with funding projects that can bring addditional tourism and overnight stays to Clark County. But board members briefly debated what kinds of projects they should be paying for. The question is whether to fund several smaller projects, or set aside more money over time for a big project that could draw more visitors to the area.

“We’ve done a lot of good things,” said chairman Charles Ingle. “But the question is have we done things that move the needle?”

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John Maurer, vice chairman for the CFA, said the board has a fairly limited budget so it’s challenging for the organization to be a key contributor for a major project. He said the CFA has had success with smaller projects like a billboard on I-70 to attract visitors. The board’s contributions to the Champions Center Expo have also helped that venue host more events, he said.

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Dan Young, treasurer for the CFA, said overnight stays in the county have risen about 30 percent over the roughly seven years the board existed.

“We’ve certainly had a big part in that,” Young said.

Ingle said the board should consider whether they should set aside more funding each year so the organization isn’t caught off guard if an opportunity to pay for an important project arrives.

“Maybe we decide not to change, but we need to have that discussion,” Ingle said.

The Springfield News-Sun will continue to provide unmatched coverage of jobs and the economy in Clark and Champaign Counties. For this story, the attended a meeting of the Clark County Convention Authorities where members discussed potential funding for a handful of local projects.

$20,000 — Funding provided to Westcott House

$100,000 — Funding for Springfield Museum of Art

$50,000 — Funding for Master Gardeners

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