LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
The London City Council met Monday night for the first reading of an ordinance, which will establish a city Tourism and Convention Commission, completely independent from the London-Laurel County Tourist Commission.
The ordinance states the new commission will be established for the purpose of promoting and developing convention and tourism activities and facilities.
“We’ve talked as individuals and as a group for some time about setting up our own tourism commission,” Mayor Troy Rudder said. “It’s not saying anything against what’s already in place, but there comes a time when you have to take control and decide your own direction.”
Rudder said the new Tourism and Convention Commission would give the city the freedom to make decisions regarding the future of tourism in London.
He continued by saying he had not spoken to anyone from the London-Laurel Tourist Commission but felt the decision would not deteriorate any bonds that had been made between the city and the county.
“I have spoken with Judge Westerfield and I am satisfied that it is not going to cause a rift between the city and county. I’m sure the tourism commission is going to have some questions and I will get with them tomorrow,” Rudder said.
Rudder stated the council can’t find any resolutions or ordinances setting any type of agreements with any organizations in relation to tourism and said he felt it would better serve London to have a city run tourism commission.
"We have a lot of things that go on in London, like the Redbud Ride, Cruisin' on Main and Thursday Night Live. It all started with London Downtown," Rudder said. "We’re not saying anything bad about the Tourist Commission, but it's time we took care of our own house and not make someone else do it for us."
It’s unclear exactly how the new commission will be funded; Rudder said, in the beginning, the city will fund the new commission and the commission will explore other methods of funding at a later date. He continued to say although the city has no intention of pursuing the 3 percent transient room tax, which is the main source of income for London-Laurel Tourist Commission, it could be possible to add one percent to the tax if necessary.
According to Jim Handy, a board member of the London-Laurel Tourist Commission, if the city did decide to pursue that revenue it would potentially cripple the existing tourist commission and result in layoffs within the commission. Handy said he believes the new city tourism commission could potentially serve as a way to implement a new tourism tax at local restaurants.
“This whole situation is a surprise to us,” Handy said. “We’re really disappointed in the city’s decision. I feel like we’ve been stabbed in the back. We’ve always had a good relationship with the city.”
Handy went on to say local tourist events such as the Redbud Ride wouldn’t exist if the Tourist Commission hadn’t started the events.
The city Tourism and Convention Commission will consist of seven commission members; three members from the hotel/motel owners group, one member from the local restaurant owners, one from the chamber of commerce and two members that will be appointed by the mayor.
Commission members will be required to live within city limits and commission members will not be permitted to serve on both tourism boards due to potential conflict of interest.
The first reading of the ordinance passed, however councilman Danny Phelps voted against the ordinance stating he would need more information about the new commission and where they plan to acquire their funding before he would be able to make an informed decision.
Also discussed at the meeting:
• The council approved the second reading of an ordinance regulating part-time police officers; and
• The council approved a lease agreement for the pocket park on Main Street.