Visit Baton Rouge, the publicly funded tourism bureau for the capital region, will receive $65,000 from BP’s multibillion-dollar oil spill settlement fund.
Of those funds, $19,500 will go toward attorney and accountant fees, leaving $45,000 for Visit Baton Rouge.
Chuck Elkins, attorney for the agency, called it a fair settlement, adding that it was essentially “futile” to try to contest it.
“It’s pure profit to us,” Elkins said. He added that all fees related to securing the funds come from the settlement.
The funds are “no strings attached.” Paul Arrigo, Visit Baton Rouge CEO and president, said the funds are a “windfall” that will go in its general operating budget. He said he has no specific plans for the money. The agency’s 2015 operating budget is $4.3 million.
Over the past three years, Arrigo said the agency has collected about $1.5 million in other BP funds that have been designated for promotions and tourism.
The board accepted the settlement Wednesday morning. The action also means the agency has dropped any pending claims it has with BP.
Visit Baton Rouge is one of the first governmental agencies in the Baton Rouge area to accept a settlement.
East Baton Rouge Parish also filed a claim, but officials have yet to disclose the details of their proposed settlement.
Parish Attorney Lea Anne Batson said entities involved are subject to a gag order issued by a federal magistrate, prohibiting her from disclosing the amount prior to a meeting.
She said a special meeting of the Baton Rouge Metro Council has been called for July 15 to discuss the proposal.
In its claim filed with BP, the city-parish reported unspecified losses of “tax revenue/income/use.”
“The City of Baton Rouge, like the vast majority of those injured by the Spill, suffered economic losses due to a decline in leisure, commercial, domestic, and international tourism, which further resulted in a decline in taxes collected from the sale of goods and services dependent upon these travelers,” the claim reads. “The City’s petrochemical businesses also suffered a decline as well.”
It also says the city suffered “a broad range of tax and revenue loss, including but not limited to sales, hospitality and property taxes.”
Arrigo said Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas suffered from the negative perception the 2010 BP oil spill cast on the Gulf Coast.
“We lost leisure business because of the perception that we were a tarnished area,” he said.
Locally, Livingston Parish, the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office and two Livingston drainage districts also filed claims for BP settlement funds.
However, officials from each of the entities also declined to disclose their proposed allocations.
Advocate staff writer Heidi Kinchen contributed to this report. Follow Rebekah Allen on Twitter, @rebekahallen. For more coverage of city-parish government, follow City Hall Buzz blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/ cityhallbuzz.