LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
A conflict of interest was cited as the reason for London Tourism and Convention Commission Chairman Jason Handy stepping down from his position in the tourism commission Monday night.
“I felt like it was a conflict of interest serving on both the London City Council and on the tourism commission,” Handy said. “I decided it would be best if I stepped down from the tourism commission. I plan to continue to assist them in any way that I can, and I want to continue to work with them to bring tourism to London.”
After Handy stepped down, Bill Dezarn was selected as the new chairman.
With personnel issues settled, the meeting was opened for discussion on a possible restaurant tax that could soon be implemented to fund the organization and any tourism activities in London in the future.
London is classified as a fourth class city and is authorized by KRS 91A.400 to levy up to a three-percent tax on restaurant sales to fund local tourism commissions. All money received from a restaurant tax must be turned over to the city's tourism and convention commission. The city also has the option to implement a one-percent transient room tax to help fund tourism.
According to statements made previously by Mayor Troy Rudder and London-Laurel County Tourist Commission Chairman Tom Handy, a three-percent restaurant tax could potentially generate as much as $2.3 million for tourism in Laurel County.
“Rodney Hendrickson and the London-Laurel County Tourist Commission are doing a tremendous job in bringing people in to the county. He’s bringing people to Laurel County and it’s helping our businesses,” London Mayor Troy Rudder said. “Now we need something permanent that will bring people here daily. We need that daily activity to bring people from all over the country to London.”
Tim Lewis, a factory worker from London and concerned citizen, agreed with Rudder that Laurel County needs some kind of permanent and daily attraction to bring people to London and Laurel County, but he also expressed concerns on how a restaurant tax would only hurt the working class.
Lewis suggested to the commission members that they consider alternative means of funding; he suggested a tax on energy drinks, a one-percent transient room tax, a water park or low interest loans to bring permanent and daily tourist attractions to London.
“I don’t think that a restaurant tax is something that will hurt the working class,” Handy said. “It’s not a tax that isn’t going to generate income or growth, it’s the opposite.”
The tourism commission postponed making a decision on how they will fund their operations until Monday at 12 p.m. where they will meet in City Hall, discuss their options and make a decision.