Lodging fee deal nearly reached

Published 11:10pm Thursday, January 3, 2013

During what was at times a heated discussion Thursday, the Selma City Council seems to be moving closer to placing an additional lodging fee on hotel rooms in Selma to help financially stabilize the YMCA of Selma.

Although no vote could be held during Thursday’s work session, the council did ask city attorney Jimmy Nunn to work up an ordinance that would place a $1.50 per room, per night fee on hotel rooms.

“At this time, we are working up plans for a $1.50 fee, but the length of time is still undetermined,” council president Corey Bowie said. “We might look at three years or two years.”

The idea for the additional fee has been heavily discussed in recent months, originally started out with the idea of a $3 per room, per night fee, with $2 going to the YMCA of Selma and the other $1 going to the city of Selma. Now, it appears the $1.50 per night, per room fee would be dedicated to the YMCA only.

The $1.50 rate is a compromise apparently reached between the city, the YMCA and hotel operators.

“I believe all of the hotels have been in agreement with the $1.50,” Hampton Inn general manager Rufus Ford said. “We had an agreement from a previous meeting that we would be OK with the $1.50 and that the YMCA was OK with $1.50.”

Also, the ordinance — according to information from the Attorney General’s office and the League of Municipalities — cannot dedicate the money to the YMCA of Selma. Instead, the ordinance would send the money to the city of Selma, who would then enter into a contract with the YMCA for “community development.”

If the ordinance is prepared in time for Tuesday’s regular council meeting, it would be placed on “first read,” which would give the council more time to discuss the fee and the length of time it would established.

By being placed on “first read” the earliest the ordinance could be voted on and approved by the council would be Jan. 22.

If the hotels operated at 50 percent occupancy, based on a report compiled with information from the city’s tourism department, the $1.50 per room, per night fee could bring in an estimated $188,000 for the YMCA per year.

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