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Officials: Office name change could boost tourism in Gainesville
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• Gainesville City Council voted Tuesday to approve an amendment to its animal control ordinance that reclassifies what constitutes “dangerous” and “potentially dangerous” animals.

As reported previously in The Times, the original ordinance established penalties on owners when their animal attacked or caused injuries to humans. The new law now puts penalties in place when an attack occurs on domesticated animals, as well, aligning it with a county ordinance.

• City Council approved four resolutions closing the fiscal year 2013 capital project budgets related to public utilities, general government, parks and recreation, and the airport.  

All projects came in under budget, leaving funds available for future projects.

The capital budget for seven public utilities projects was more than $7.6 million, with funding supporting maintenance of water treatment facilities and replacement of water meters, among other things. A fund balance of more than $1.9 million will be pumped back into projects going forward.

The capital budget for 11 general government projects was more than $8.8 million, with funding supporting fire department fleet replacements, street improvements and the city’s television station, among other things. The funding balance was more than $92,000, most of which will be available for future appropriations.

The capital budget for two parks and recreation projects was $140,000, with funding supporting a master plan update and new internal management software. A fund balance of about $6,800 will be directed into the parks development fund and contractual services.

Finally, the capital budget for two airport projects was more than $188,000, with funding supporting terminal improvements and hangar renovations. A fund balance of $14,150 is available for reappropriation.

According to officials, the city budgets a 10 to 15 percent contingency for all capital projects to cover potential cost overruns, which explains why fund appropriations were left over for all projects.

“It’s always gratifying when you come to this point and have this money to reappropriate,” Councilman Bob Hamrick said.

Joshua Silavent

Gainesville officials are hoping a name change to the tourism and trade office will boost economic development and help attract more visitors and conventions.

City Council approved a request Tuesday directing the state delegation from Hall County to pursue legislation in the General Assembly that would authorize the birth of the Gainesville Convention and Visitors Bureau Authority.

“I think one of the good things about having the CVB designation is that it is known internationally,” said Gainesville spokeswoman Catiel Felts.

The CVB’s predecessor, known as Gainesville Tourism and Trade, was established in fiscal year 2010 within the city’s communications and tourism office.

Though a formality, the name change is expected to have big benefits for the city, which already has seen its hotel/motel tax revenue increase every month this fiscal year over last.

Officials said they hoped the change would help promote the downtown and midtown areas of the city, as well as advertise Gainesville as a welcome destination for trade shows, conventions and special events.

If passed by the legislature, the CVB would be governed by a seven-member board of directors made up of the city manager, director of the parks and recreation department, two representatives from local hotels and motels, two members from local attraction businesses and one member from the local restaurant industry.

The board would be mandated to meet at least twice annually and report to the City Council. The board also will appoint an executive director and hire more people as necessary. The CVB will have the authority to purchase or lease property to carry out its functions.

The CVB’s budget is expected to be folded into the budget of the existing communications and tourism office, which must be approved annually by City Council.

“Everyone knows exactly what (CVBs) do,” Felts said. “Sometimes with the Gainesville Tourism and Trade, it’s harder to explain what we do.”

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