CAPC considers Air BnB agreement

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Eureka Springs City Advertising and Promotion Commission is looking to get more information on local lodging establishments that book through Air BnB.

At a workshop Wednesday, Aug. 23, finance director Rick Bright presented a proposed agreement with Air BnB. Bright said the city of Hot Springs has already agreed to the contract.

“I just changed ‘Hot’ to ‘Eureka,’” Bright said.

The reason for the contract, he said, is to figure out how many lodging businesses use Air BnB.

“This will be nice, because everything they book in the city limits, they’ll send a report with an address,” Bright said.

Chairwoman Susan Harman asked Bright what he’d do with the information once he receives it, and he said he would send it to city officials. Commissioner David Mitchell recalled the last time city preservation officer Glenna Booth looked at lodging businesses in town, saying some of these businesses don’t follow the CAPC’s guidelines for tax collectors. Mitchell said he wants Booth to look into that more regularly.

“Glenna is supposed to be looking once every quarter, not once every year,” Mitchell said.

“I don’t know what her schedule is,” Harman said. “I know she does it once a year.”

“She was told by the mayor it was to be once a quarter,” Mitchell said. “It wasn’t her option.”

Harman asked Bright if he’s notified when a new tax collector receives a license to run a business in the city, and Bright said city clerk Ann Armstrong takes care of that.

“She has done a good job. Ann puts it in my box at City Hall,” Bright said. “The only ones that might fall through the cracks are those who aren’t going to open for a while and they’re not ready for a license.”

Harman suggested that Armstrong send Bright an email each month with the new tax collectors.

“I think she’s pretty diligent about keeping up with that stuff,” director Mike Maloney said.

“If I have a question, she gets right on the phone and calls them,” Bright said.

Mitchell said he’s not worried about the people who apply for a license.

“The people we caught are people who did not want to pay, or they were doing it illegally,” Mitchell said. “Although they were collecting the tax, it wasn’t going to us.”

Maloney said he likes the idea of the agreement with Air BnB, saying some other problems might arise with the company in the future.

“We’ll see more issues with that when they come in,” Maloney said. “One of those issues is what is that property outside city limits doing.”

The commission moved on, with Harman asking Maloney if he had any updates on the Eureka Springs App. The commission agreed at a previous meeting to spend $40,000 on the mobile application, developed by local Chip Ford. Maloney said the app is ready to be downloaded now but there is a problem with it.

“Beware of the fact that it is a very large file,” Maloney said.

It takes four hours to download the app, Maloney said. Commissioner Terry McClung asked if anybody would want something that took that long to download, and Maloney said Ford is working to decrease the download time.

“He’s got to compress that. I have it downloaded on my iPad,” Maloney said. “I don’t have it completely downloaded on my iPhone yet. I stopped the download after it ran my battery down.”

When the app is released to the public, Harman said, the commission could face problems with what information to put on it. Harman explained that private events aren’t featured on the commission’s website but can be on the application.

“Going forward, is there anything that holds us back from listing those type of events that are going on around town?” Harman said.

Mitchell said he thought the commission had already figured that out.

“I thought what we had discussed about Chip was since that was his application … he can do whatever he wants,” Mitchell said. “You may not put that private special event on the CAPC one, but Chip will have it on his.”

Mitchell asked how Maloney is coming along with marketing the app, saying he wants to unveil the app to business owners at The Auditorium. Maloney said this is possible.

“We’ll do something along those lines,” Maloney said.

The commission’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 13, at City Hall.

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