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The Galt District Chamber of Commerce explained how it would use half a million dollars in grant money for a tourism initiative at the March 7 meeting of Galt City Council. Additionally, Council approved a contract with Sacramento County for full animal-control services.

‘Visit Galt’ presentation

Describing the chamber’s “Visit Galt” proposal, board members said the concept would boost tourism, support local businesses and contribute to tax revenue. In return, they sought half a million dollars in COVID-19 relief funds and a share of the city’s hotel tax.

The plan includes developing activities and services to attract visitors, finding advertising opportunities outside the city and setting up a visitor center downtown. For financing, the chamber has asked to receive American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds that had been allocated for local businesses but weren’t claimed.

The chamber broke down its ask for the roughly $500,000, saying $150,000 would go to the visitor center, $100,000 to initial advertising, and $200,000 to three or four years of salary for a new executive director position.

The proposal also requests 30% of Galt’s transient-occupancy tax revenue, with a minimum of $100,000 per year. Chamber President Madison Delbrugge said this money would pay for rent and utilities at the visitor center.

The chamber also plans to raise money on its end, potentially through sponsorships, merchandise, or higher membership levels for businesses. Delbrugge also stressed that chamber board members are unpaid volunteers and won’t personally receive any funds.

Delbrugge said there are many reasons to visit Galt; her list of reasons included Cosumnes River Preserve, Galt Area Historical Society properties, and the Galt Market and Saturday Market, as well as sports tournaments and graduations at the correctional officer academy. Delbrugge also felt people from neighboring towns might be interested in visiting.

“People in Sacramento, Rocklin and Roseville sometimes want to get out of the big city and visit rural towns. I think we have something to offer them as well,” she said.

Packages could be created with itineraries of offers from local businesses and destinations, chamber Treasurer Bonnie Rodriguez said.

The board members said the organization has researched ways of advertising Galt, particularly at the Sacramento International Airport. A promotion at the airport may include placing a cow sculpture there as part of the Herd on the Street program.

“It’s all about that marketing and … our plan is to get out in front of it. We’re going to poll the people and we’re going to make them stop at Galt when they’re driving south or as they’re driving north,” said Rodriguez, who owns the Herald’s parent company. Rodriguez did not have editorial input on this story.

The plan also foresees a partnership with Visit California. Rodriguez said a representative of the state tourism board was “ecstatic” at the prospect of working with Galt.

A visitor center makes up a third element of the proposal. Delbrugge said the chamber is close to reaching a deal for a space on Fourth Street, and she envisioned acquiring adjacent space for a conference room. She said the chamber would use that room for meetings and make it available for use by community groups.

To run the program, Delbrugge said the chamber wants to hire an executive director. The director would also work with the city’s economic development manager to coordinate efforts.

Council members expressed openness to the proposal. Council Member Shawn Farmer appreciated the explanation of how the money would be spent. Though disappointed that not all of the money set aside for small businesses had been claimed, he still wanted it to support business in some way.

Vice Mayor Paul Sandhu felt that the plan would contribute to income from sales and transient-occupancy taxes.

“I know $500,000 is a lot of money, but if they go by their plan, this money (will) come back to the city,” Sandhu said.

Council Member Rich Lozano said it is time to “invest” in a visitor center and in the city’s economic development.

Speaking in public comment, Chris Brossman said the $500,000 is “an awful lot of money” and cautioned council members to spend the money carefully. He said he would want to see “a tangible return on my investment” and asked whether the city has a building that the chamber could use for the visitor center.

Council reached a consensus to include the chamber’s proposal in future discussions of ARPA allocations, and Lozano asked that it be factored into budget development.

Animal control contract accepted

The county may soon provide full animal control services to Galt residents. Council accepted a new contract that provides for just that, and the next step is final approval by the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors.

Under the current contract, the county provides partial service with Galt Police Department as the primary point of contact for residents. Galt originally chose this option in 2015 to avoid a tripling of its annual bill at the time from $40,000 to $120,000. Partial service resulted in a cost of $80,000 for 2015. The cost has since risen to about $120,000 per year.

Meanwhile, several residents and a local cat rescue have shared their discontent with the arrangement. They have said the police department does not respond consistently to animal control concerns and does not house animals securely enough before they are handed off to the county.

Chief of Police Brian Kalinowski said the initial quote for a return to full service was more than $400,000, based on the city’s population. However, he said the county has agreed to calculate the bill by comparing the number of animals picked up in the city to the total picked up in the county. That formula results in a cost of nearly $200,000 per year. The number will fluctuate to a degree as intake numbers change.

The new agreement would remove the department from the city’s animal control structure. The point of contact for Galtonians with animal concerns would be 311, and a county employee would answer service calls.

“That’s my job, and we’ll be happy to do it,” said Annette Bedsworth, director of county Animal Care Services. “You will be getting the full services that the Sacramento County residents get.”

Bedsworth said she plans to do outreach about the service changes if the agreement is accepted.

Council approved the contract 5-0. Next, the contract needs to be ratified by the board of supervisors.

Other business

Members of the county’s Mobile Crisis Support Team spoke to council about a program to help homeless people in the city access resources. Christine Ruiz, a social worker, has begun accompanying officers, particularly problem-oriented police officer Jeffrey Selvy, for two days a week. She said that she tries to de-escalate situations she is called to, avoid hospitalization and get follow-up for people she encounters.