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Groups seek combined $187K from Gainesville
Funds to be used for tourism, quality of life
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Three organizations that do their part to enhance quality of life for local residents and visitors alike presented the Gainesville City Council this week separate funding requests for the coming fiscal year 2018 totaling $187,000.

The largest request — $150,000 — came from Gainesville Hall ‘96, the group contracted by the city to boost tourism by organizing water events at Lake Lanier Olympic Park.

Also requesting funds were Kelly Norman, executive director of Keep Hall Beautiful, who asked for $20,000, and Andrea Timpone, president and chief executive officer of Elachee Nature Science Center, who seeks $17,000.

During a work session Thursday, Mayor Danny Dunagan and council members acknowledged the good work being done by the three organizations and appeared receptive to funding the petitions. Officials indicated that funding will be considered as the city’s FY 2018 budget is developed.

Lanier Olympic Park Manager Morgan House said that Pan American kayaking and canoeing qualifiers for the Brazil Summer Olympic Games last year, along with other events, attracted more than 97,000 vehicles to the park last year.

“We expect that number to grow in the future,” House said of visitors attracted to the park, and added that Lanier Olympic Park events generated economic impact in excess of $11 million.

Although the funding request by GH ‘96 remained the same as last year, House was reminded by a councilman of the organization’s previous commitment to eventually cease relying on the city’s contribution.

Mimi Collins, the group’s chair, told the council that the ongoing investment to upgrade and maintain Lanier Olympic Park would require the city and county to continue making their contributions each year.

Collins said that a $1.1 million upgrade of the park financed by city and county funds, local donors and a regional grant put the organization on the right path, but added, “it’s only getting us part of the way.”

House said a $500,000 regional grant request submitted last month would also go toward future renovations.

“We should hear about the grant in late March or early April,” he said.

The Elachee Nature Science Center request also got a little scrutiny. Noting that over the past few years funding petition have jumped from $6,000 to $17,000, Councilman Zack Thompson asked Timpone whether that trend is going to continue.

“What that doesn’t show is that we were at $15,000, and that was taken down to $6,000,” Timpone said.