Two motels not paying room tax

Leader Reporter/March 10, 2006
By Tim Ryan

Two of six motels located in the city of Shawano have not paid room tax since the middle of last year, a situation that is causing financial problems for the Shawano Country Tourism Council.

According to records at the city clerk’s office, third and fourth quarter 2005 payments are past due for the AmericInn Motel, 1330 E. Green Bay St., and the Best Western Village Haus, 201 N. Airport Dr.

Both properties are owned by Midwest Hotels and Motels of Shawano, LLC, a subsidiary of the Samanta Roy Institute of Science and Technology (SIST).

“It’s caused major problems,” said Nancy Smith, executive director of the Shawano Country Chamber of Commerce.

The Shawano Country Tourism Council, which is budgeted independently of the chamber, relies solely on the motel room tax to fund its operations.

“We’re running about $40,000 under what we should be at this point,” Smith said. The council’s total estimated budget for revenue is between $120,000 to $150,000, she said.

The delinquent room tax issue was publicly aired during comments from Mayor Lorna Marquardt at Wednesday’s Common Council meeting.

Marquardt was responding to comments published in Wednesday’s edition of the Shawano Leader made by USA International Raceway general manager Scott Paape.

USA International Raceway is part of Midwest Amusement Park, and is also owned by SIST.

Paape accused Marquardt of wanting to see the racetrack, which is located in the Town of Wescott, closed down. He said Marquardt was more interested in closing down the track than the tourism revenue that the track brings into the community.

Marquardt denied the charge.

“We appreciate any tourism dollars that come into the community,” Marquardt said.

She then went on to thank those local motels that have paid their room tax, which goes to fund tourism.

“I encourage all hotels to pay their room tax,” Marquardt said, without specifically naming those hotels that haven’t paid.

Because motel room tax payments vary depending on how much business a motel has – and the amount being charged for a room – an exact amount of delinquent payments cannot be determined.

However, according to records requested from city hall, payments from the AmericInn and Best Western for the third and fourth quarters of 2004 totaled $33,808. The city retained $1,725 as its share, with the rest going to the tourism council.

AmericInn, which was purchased by Midwest Hotels in November 2004, paid a total of $8,234 for the first and second quarters of 2005.

The last full payment from the Best Western was a $6,615 room tax for the first quarter of 2005, paid prior to Midwest Hotels taking over the property.

A partial room tax payment of $868, covering the first two weeks of the second quarter, was made by previous owner Frank Feivor and American Securities, Inc., just prior to the changeover to Midwest Hotels.

No payments have been made since that time, according to city records.

The tourism council’s shortfall has mostly affected new print advertising, according to Smith.

“We’ve had to back off most of our print advertising,” Smith said, “We aren’t able to do any new or special promotions.”

Visitor guides are still being handed out, however. Internet advertising is continuing and the council will still participate in the Milwaukee sport show, Smith said.

“I don’t want to give the impression that we’re not promoting tourism,” Smith said. “We’re still printing the visitor guides. We’re still doing our jobs. We just can’t do anything extra.”

Lydia Welch, who manages both the Best Western and the AmericInn, said she did not know anything about the room tax payments and referred a reporter to the corporate office.

Messages left for Naomi Isaacson, CEO and chief manager of Midwest Hotels and Motels of Shawano, were not returned.

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