GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The Clay County Tourism Development Council met for the last time this year to discuss bed-tax collections, a new museum coming to Penney Farms and to give chairman Mike Cella a proper send off since he may not be returning next year.
Cella, who is also the chairman of the Board of County Commissioners, is hoping to return to his chairman seat on the TDC next year but that’s for the BCC to decide at their next meeting. The BCC will determine organizational structure at their next meeting, which means a different BCC member could be selected as the chairmen of the BCC and TDC.
“I’m not sure who will be back as far as chairman,” Cella said. “I certainly would like to return and I’ll lobby that way. It really just depends on the chairman and what he or she would like to do.”
The new BCC chairman will be one of the sitting commissioners, which includes Cella, Diane Hutchings, Gavin Rollins, Gayward Hendry and Wayne Bolla, and it will be up to that person to determine who will sit as the chairman of the TDC in the new year.
Cella used the final minutes of the Nov. 20 TDC meeting to explain how much he enjoyed his time on the council.
“It’s been a great opportunity to work with all of you and we’ve done great things in a very short period of time,” Cella said. “The best is yet to come.”
In other business, the TDC had a 16.18% increase in bed-tax collections. This year marks the first time that the TDC has collected bed taxes at its new 5% rate for a full year. Clay County Tourism Director Kimberly Morgan said Wednesday she’s hearing from hoteliers that room rates are going down and that more rooms are being sold.
The TDC also approved a motion 5-0 to grant the town of Penney Farms $30,000 to break ground on a JC Penney Museum. The building the town plans to locate the museum already is in place, so the $30,000 will go toward retrofitting the building. The town anticipates the museum being staffed with volunteers.
The town originally requested $40,000, but the TDC opted to grant them $30,000. A town representative said that $30,000 is plenty to get the project started and on its feet. There is not yet an opening date or window for the museum.