June 27, 2001 11:00 pm

By Alice Perry Linker

Observer Staff Writer

Union County doled out its transient room tax money Wednesday, keeping the amount for each economic agency at last years levels.

The county has estimated total receipts of about $112,000 for the year, about the same as last year. The room tax is paid on hotel and motel rooms in the county.

The Union County Economic Development Corporation, a private corporation, asked the county to pay half its income for the upcoming year.

Commissioner Steve McClure said the county should not shoulder half of the financial burden when, originally, support for the corporation was to come from the county, the City of La Grande and the private sector.

Dan Schuette, president of UCEDC, said the corporation is unable to pay good salaries because of a lack of funds. The corporation asked Union County to up its donation from $30,000 to $40,000, but the county held at $30,000.

Schuette said the corporation has not yet talked to La Grande about the citys contribution.

Were trying to figure out how that works (applying for city funds), Schuette said. We have yet to get a clarification.

McClure said, however, that historically the amount awarded UCEDC came jointly from city, county and the private sector.

I want to see that partnership fostered again, he said. Im not willing to go to 50 percent.

Commissioner Colleen MacLeod said that the corporation should be supported more by businesses.

Id like to see the private sector step up, she said.

Schuette said the number of members has increased. According to documents

submitted to the county, most members pay either $100 or $250 for a membership, although some larger corporations pay more. Boise Cascade pays $2,000. The documents show that private businesses paid $13,450 for current memberships.

UCEDC owns industrial property in Baum Industrial Park. Earlier this year, the corporation traded some Baum acreage for industrial property in Elgin, which it subsequently sold to the city.

Other organizations funded from the hotel-motel tax are:

Union County Chamber of Commerce, $12,000;

The Visitors and Conventions Bureau, $31,800;

The small cities, $5,700;

Blue Mountain Conference Center, $10,500.

The county has retained $22,000 for small discretionary grants.