With a vote Thursday morning, the Hill County Commission approved reviving an effort that has brought tens of thousands of dollars to a program bringing tourists — and customers — to the region.
The commission approved a resolution of intent for the county to form a tourism business improvement district, taking over a role as governing body for the TBID, which Havre had established in 2010.
With the decision, AmericInn, Super 8, TownHouse Inn of Havre and the Great Northern Best Western Inn can continue to fund promotion and marketing of the area.
“It’s exciting, because now we can just keep the momentum going with the marketing of Havre and the area, ” said Havre Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Debbie Vandeberg, who also serves as executive director for the TBID board.
Vandeberg added that in its two years of operation, the district has marketed the region, not just the Havre attractions and hotels.
“This is exciting, ” she said. “We can get back on track and move forward. ”
Under Montana law, the county government now must publish a notice of its resolution of intent, which is scheduled to run in the Havre Daily News Oct. 22 and Oct. 29. The businesses impacted — the four hotels that requested the county form the district — have 15 days to file a written protest if they oppose the creation of the district.
A hearing and vote on creating the district are scheduled for Nov. 7.
The participating hotels and motels add a $1 assessment to each room charge. Those fees are collected by the county with the hotel’s property taxes. Once a year the county sends the total TBID assessment to the district’s board to use for marketing the area.
Vandeberg said the amount collected has increased. In 2010, the first year of operation, the TBID board received about $40,000 for marketing the region, and it increased the next year. The figures she has seen for this year’s amount have been close to $60,000, Vandeberg said.
“We had a really good summer, ” she said.
Vandeberg said the other hotels and motels in Havre were notified that the TBID was being reorganized, but she has not heard back from any of those entities as yet. If other hotels wanted to join later, the district could be amended to do so, she said, which would increase the money available to market the region.
Vandeberg said the money, used to market the region primarily with Internet advertising and print ads in Canada and neighboring states in conjunction with other advertising such as with the state’s tourism department, appears to be making an impact. That includes advertising as far north as in the major market of Calgary, Alberta, she said.
She said a hotel manager told her that a couple made reservations and said they had seen the TBID advertising. Vandeberg also said she has had people in the Chamber office make the same comment.
Under state law, a TBID can be formed under the authority of either a municipality or county government, although a convention and visitors bureau must be under the auspices of a municipality.
The district originally was formed under the authority of Havre, with Super 8 and AmericInn allowed to join the district because the city had approved annexing those properties.
Property owners filed a lawsuit in 2010 alleging that the city had not followed required procedures in the annexation.
Aug. 20, the parties settled out of court, agreeing that the city would throw out the existing annexation and start over, using the “provision of services” method for future annexation in which only properties receiving city services like water or sewer service. In exchange, the property owners agreed to not protest future annexation procedures.
But the settlement removed the two hotels from the TBID.
Monday, Hill County commisioners Mike Wendland and Jeff LaVoi reviewed the petition from the four hotels, presented by Vandeberg, who also served as executive director of the Havre TBID, and AmericInn owner Dave Clausen and the hotel’s general manager, Ruby Christian.
LaVoi and Wendland agreed Monday to put the resolution on Thursday’s agenda, and passed the motion Thursday morning. Commissioner Kathy Bessette is out of the office on medical leave.
Vandeberg said Monday that the Convention and Visitors Bureau that also was formed, which marketed the area using money from the state bed tax assessment in Havre, cannot be reformed until the AmericInn and Super 8 are annexed.
Without the inclusion of the AmericInn and Super 8, the amount collected through the bed tax does not qualify the city for a nonprofit convention and visitors bureau under state law.