The Ely City Council voted to increase the hotel/motel tax by one half percent at its meeting March 10. The funds collected are to be used for outside recreation, and the White Pine Tourism and Recreation Board can award it to organizations that apply. Most of the meeting’s public comment supported the increase, but there remained some resistance.

Renee Harshman, a local motel owner, voiced her opposition.

“I own a small 16-room motel,” Harshman said. “This year has been bad. This is going to put us out of business, and I don’t think it’s fair to us small business guys.”

Shane Bybee, co-owner of the Ramada Inn and Copper Queen casino, supported the tax increase.

“I’m wholeheartedly in favor,” Bybee said. “We need the revenues this will create. It’s created so much traffic and had so much impact. It will bring us more dollars. The tax will help us keep our facilities up and I support it 110 percent.”

John O’Flaherty, co-owner of the Bristlecone Motel, also supported the increase.

“I’m in support of this passing through,” O’Flaherty said. “This is a cooperative way to raise some additional funding for the community. One-half percent is a nominal fee. Other places are considerably higher. Anything we can do to improve recreation I support.”

A representative from the Jailhouse Hotel and Casino voiced some skepticism about the destination of the new revenue.

“There are other avenues and other opportunities,” he said. “I’m not opposed to intermittent hikes, I just don’t want the money to automatically come out and the same old, same old.”

“When this was proposed, it was specifically for the golf course,” Councilman Bruce Setterstrom said. “When we talked about it more, that’s when we decided that it could go to any outdoor recreation opportunities. So I propose that for the first year it go to the golf course, from June 2016 to June 2017, then we accept applications for other outdoor recreation.”

The council approved the increase unanimously. Councilman Sam Hanson was absent.

The council awarded the Murry Street Sewer Project to the Reck Brothers, LLC, an Ely general engineering contractor. The Reck Brothers bid the lowest for the project at $463,000, but the city will issue a change order to keep the cost within the $360,000 budgeted for the project. The company will replace the sewer main on Murry Street between Clark Street and 1st Avenue, and will then repave the street and replace the sidewalks. Mayor Melody Van Camp abstained from the vote due to her ownership of two properties on Murry Street.

The council approved a stay of the required health inspection for a new tattoo parlor, so the owners could secure a private health inspector.

Fire Chief Ross Rivera reported to the council on his latest attempts to work with the county on fire protection services.

“They have to open that door,” Rivera said. “I’m not going to stick my foot in it. I made some friction. I didn’t mean to, I just wanted to make a statement.”

The council holds its next regular meeting on Mar. 24 at 5 p.m at the Ely Volunteer Fire Hall.