By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – The City Council decided Monday to continue support for two tourism-related projects in the capital projects budget, nearly a week after suspending the $250,000 in funding.
Members of organizations supporting the tourism projects listened to council members and Mayor Jason Shelton debate which source of funding should fund the efforts.
“Rest assured we’re going to fund these projects,” Ward 1 councilman Markel Whittington said at the work session. “The only question is which pocket we’re going to take it out of.”
The Council decided a week ago to postpone funding for a replica Vietnam Wall Memorial at Veterans Park and improvements at Elvis Presley’s birthplace after some council members voiced concern about funding sources.
They questioned using the capital projects budget for the tourism enhancements and voted to hold a work session to discuss paying for them instead through the Convention and Visitors Bureau’s annual budget, funded through a 2 percent restaurant and hotel tax.
Tupelo’s tourism organization plans to provide $100,000 toward the birthplace project and $25,000 to the Vietnam Memorial effort in the current fiscal year.
Elvis Presley Birthplace Foundation’s board of directors originally asked for $150,000 from the CVB, while Vietnam War memorial supporters sought $100,000.
Shelton reminded the council of meetings at which funding for the projects was discussed. The birthplace project, expected to cost roughly $1 million, involves seeking state funding.
“These are projects the CVB has committed to and the city will have to commit to if we want them to be successful,” he said.
Councilman Lynn Bryan of Ward 2 said he remained opposed to funding tourism projects through the capital budget, something he believes should stick to construction and other long-term quality of life projects.
“We don’t have this huge pot of gold in this city,” he said.