Conference center to move forward with outside patio

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By Alex Wimsatt

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - Months after local tourist and convention officials proposed building an elaborate patio onto Paroquet Springs Conference Centre it now appears construction will soon be underway. 

During its November regular meeting, members of the Shepherdsville-Bullitt County Tourist and Convention Commission voted unanimously to accept a bid on the outdoor reception terrace and patio area project. 

Conference center director Vicki Downing, who has stood behind the project since its conception, said she was thrilled to see the one-of-a-kind project finally reach the construction phase. 

“It’s been a long time coming,” Downing said, adding that while the project has experienced a few hiccups here and there, it’s not far behind schedule. 

And though there was some initial difficulty attracting local bids on the project, commissioners were pleased when the lowest bid was submitted by a contractor out of Brooks.

The winning $304,000 bid was submitted by Ed Harned, president of EH Construction.

Even better, Downing said, is the fact that seven of the nine subcontractors who will work on the project under EH Construction are Bullitt County based. 

“They want to get started as soon as possible,” Downing said. 

The initial cost estimate for the project was around $228,000, but because utilities will have to be run around the patio for the proposed McDowell Ballroom expansion project the project costed more than expected. 

In addition to enhancing the aesthetics of the conference center’s exterior, Downing said the patio would serve as an elegant outdoor venue for a variety of events from weddings to luncheons.

Downing said conference center staff are eager to start booking events for next year.

Once completed, the stone patio will accommodate 200-300 guests seated theater-style.

Plans call for an exterior wall surrounding the patio, trellis, decorative light fixtures, water elements, an audio visual system and decorative landscaping intended to create an intimate setting while serving as a buffer from outside activity.

Weather permitting the project could be completed in four months, but Downing estimated it would likely take six. 

In other business:

*After months of reporting steady increases in hotel and restaurant tax revenue, the commission yet another revenue increase.

Commission treasurer James Watkins reported that September hotel tax receipts deposited in October rose $1,663 to $41,904 from the same period in 2011.

Hotel occupancy for the month was over 50 percent.

Watkins said August restaurant tax receipts deposited in September rose to $51,769 from $51,353 in August 2011. 

*Bullitt County Tourism director Troy Beam told commissioners that he had received bad news from the Four Roses distillery in Clermont. 

“They’re discontinuing tours,” he said. 

Beam said the decision to discontinue tours was handed down from Four Roses’ corporate headquarters in Japan.

On a more positive note Beam was happy to report that the number of visitors to local attractions continued to grow through October. 

Beam shared that the number of visitors to Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest more than doubled from October 2011 to October 2012. 

An estimated 40,000 people visited Bernheim in October, according to Beam, who added that Jim Beam’s flagship distillery in southeast Bullitt County also saw an increase in visitors since the grand opening of the Jim Beam American Stillhouse.

Beam also shared that the U.S. hotel industry is experiencing widespread recovery from the recession.

*Downing reported that Paroquet Springs Conference Centre sales revenue rose 23 percent from October 2011 to October 2012.

“It’s one of the best months we’ve ever had,” Downing said. “We had a very busy month.”

As Downing explained, additional trade shows and social events contributed to the increase in sales revenue.

The conference center booked nearly 100 rooms for the month of October, but since 

*Paroquet Springs Conference Centre will soon be getting new handicap accessible doors. 

Downing said many with disabilities have been unable to access the conference center without assistance, adding that Bullitt County Planning and Zoning recommended handicap accessible doors be installed. 

The commission considered three proposals for new handicap accessible doors after Downing requested the doors at the conference center’s main entrance be replaced with automatic doors. 

The first proposal, which included installation, but not electric wiring, was for $9,600. The second, which included only the cost of the doors, was for $3,500, and the third, which included installation, but not electric wiring, was for $3,900. 

Downing said conference center maintenance staff could more than likely wire the new doors if the commission were to approve the third proposal. 

After some discussion, commissioners unanimously approved the third proposal.

*The commission approved new executive officers. 

James Watkins was chosen to serve as chairman. Local hotelier Jay Patel was nominated vice chair, Kelly was nominated treasurer and Moby Dick owner Buddy Deeley was nominated secretary. 

*Kelly invited everyone to attend the commission’s annual community Christmas party at Paroquet Springs Conference Centre on Thursday, Dec. 13, from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.

 local residents are invited to enjoy an extravagant lunch freshly prepared by conference center staff. 

The free event is sponsored by the Shepherdsville-Bullitt County Tourist and Convention Commission and the Bullitt County Chamber of Commerce. 

*The next regular meeting of the Shepherdsville-Bullitt County Tourist and Convention Commission will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 18 at the Paroquet Springs Conference Center in Shepherdsville. The meeting begins at 4:30. The public is invited.