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Ottertail favors lodging tax by summer

By the beginning of June, the city of Ottertail intends to implement a 3 percent lodging tax. The tax will be applied to income generated at area lodging facilities, with the proceeds used to directly promote those same establishments.

Linda Buchanan, The Otter Lodge; Brad Stevens, Thumper Pond; and Terry Wagenman, representative from the Ottertail City Council are members of the newly-formed Lodging Tax Committee. The purpose of founding the committee was to determine if a lodging tax was an appropriate fit for the city of Ottertail, and, if so, at what percentage.

At the April 1 city council meeting, Wagenman shared some of the committee's conclusions with the rest of the council. "The committee would like to have the full 3 percent," Wagenman summarized of the group's support for the lodging tax.

The committee plans to present the city with sample resolutions at the council's first meeting in May. The plan is to have approval by the second meeting in May, with the lodging tax becoming official as of June 1.

Thumper Pond Resort and The Otter Lodge are the only two lodging facilities within Ottertail city limits. Wagenman said that the management of both businesses is behind the proposed lodging tax. It was the committee's recommendation to the council that the tax become effective in the summer of 2010.

Another meeting of the Lodging Tax Committee is scheduled for later this month. At that time, the committee will review samples of resolutions and bylaws pertaining to the tax. This information will then be presented to the full council.

Ottertail Mayor Raymond "Ole" Mounts voiced his support for the committee's recommendations, adding, "I think we should do whatever to help them."

At a previous council meeting Brad Stevens, general manager of Thumper Pond, reported that, after examining the funds generated during this past year, the city would be looking at about $30,000 raised through the lodging tax in any given year.

"It's not just buying ads or billboards," Stevens reminded the council when discussing what the tax would be used for, "it's focusing on whatever it takes to support your community."

If the 3 percent tax is implemented in the city, the local lodging facilities will turn over 3 percent of their proceeds to the city of Ottertail. The city keeps 5 percent of those dollars for their share in the administrative work in making the collections. The rest of the money is allocated to promoting the Ottertail area.