City Council recommends spending government money to increase tourism

Council wants to hire marketing firm; discussed spike in COVID-19 cases



Mike Urban, Pullman City director of finance and administrative services, said Pullman will receive a new CARES Act allocation of at least $30,000.

SYDNEY BROWN, Evergreen reporter

Pullman City Council decided to allocate about $30,000 for a professional, regional marketing firm with the purpose of increasing tourism within Pullman’s business district during its virtual meeting Tuesday night. 

This was decided after the council heard recommendations about how the city should spend the rest of its first round of CARES Act funds. A formal decision will be taken when the council hears the result of the professional marketing firm strategy on Sept. 15. 

Mike Urban, Pullman director of finance and administrative services, said the city should spend the rest of its CARES Act money on better technology so city employees can do work remotely, as well as invest in sanitizing equipment for in-person city agencies. 

Urban said cities in Whitman County will soon also receive a new CARES Act allocation of at least $30,000. 

Because CARES Act allocation is based on population, Urban said Pullman will likely receive more than $30,000, but he said he will need more information before those funds can be used.

Councilmember Al Sorensen said he wants to invest right now in better tourism advertising for Pullman to help local businesses in the area. 

“We still need people to know we are here and we are open for business,” Sorensen said.

Councilmember Ann Parks said with the current spike in COVID-19 cases, she wonders if this would be a good use of funding on the city’s part. She said many in Washington state are afraid to leave their own communities. 

“Maybe that doesn’t need to be the top priority right now,” she said. 

This discussion came after the council deliberated on how enforcement measures in Pullman have worked to deter social distancing violations. 

The county confirmed 50 new cases Tuesday, putting the number of positive cases at 559. Most of these are college-aged people. The weekend saw at least eight infractions issued to party hosts and at least 35 calls to police about public health violations.

Sorensen said he felt WSU administration could have established better testing and engaged in clearer communication earlier than they did. 

Parks said WSU does not hold jurisdiction over students who live off-campus. She said many locals asked her why WSU did not shut down the parties on College Hill over the weekend or enforce the social distancing and mask mandates. 

“Well, they can’t,” she said. 

Councilmember Brandon Chapman said the spike in cases does not necessarily represent poor leadership on WSU’s part. The city also has a responsibility to enforce the measures, he said. 

Mayor Glenn Johnson said the university received projections from rental agencies that 70 to 90 percent of off-campus students would return. Sorensen said he felt the university had the proper data and resources to deter the increase in coronavirus locally. 

“They put our community at risk, in my opinion,” Sorensen said. 

The council also unanimously approved the appointment of Pullman resident Kimberly Lackey to the Lawson Gardens Committee.