City Council reconsidering seeking other bids for tourism marketing contract
Reflecting an easing of tensions with the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, City Council is having second thoughts about its plans to seek other proposals for the handling of the 2007 tourism marketing contract.Council on Thursday met to answer questions surrounding how to proceed with requests for proposals for the contract, now held by the chamber. But it soon found itself debating whether it wants to take that route at all.”We’re reinventing the wheel, folks. I’m not even sure why we’re going with an RFP,” council member Joe O’Donnell said.He questioned the idea of possibly awarding the contract to a non-local organization.”An outfit from Louisville or Denver is going to charge us by the hour and they don’t even have a clue what Glenwood is all about,” he said.Council decided to formally reconsider at its next meeting whether to seek other proposals.The city long has awarded the contract to the chamber without seeking other proposals. The marketing program is funded by a lodging tax that now generates more than $500,000 a year.Last year, the city raised questions about the chamber’s handling of the contract, and even suggested the chamber may have been overbilling the city for its services. The city later dropped an investigation into the matter.It awarded the chamber the 2006 contract, but revised the contract wording and also is working more closely with the chamber regarding billing. The chamber last year also created a Tourism Marketing Board, composed of local industry representatives, to oversee the marketing budget.However, council last year also had decided to open the 2007 contract up to bid. Mayor Bruce Christensen continued to argue Thursday for continuing with that plan. He said it would help to hear new ideas about tourism promotion from different agencies, and see “what their proposal will give us for a half-million dollars a year.””Although I don’t know anything about marketing tourism there are people in this state that know a phenomenal amount about marketing tourism,” he said.But O’Donnell and some other council members believe the situation with the chamber is much improved today. Council member Kris Chadwick suggested giving the chamber a two-year contract, while it continues to work with the new marketing board.”I think it’s important to give that group a chance to succeed,” she said.City manager Jeff Hecksel said that whatever happens, some changes in how the city handles the contract should be made.”The way it’s set up right now doesn’t work. It’s not a good system,” he said.The city now is asked to oversee the fund but isn’t in a position to do it, he said. One suggestion he has made is that the tourism board report to the city rather than to the chamber.Hecksel said there has been a lot of interest from marketing agencies in the city’s tourism marketing contract.But Stephanie Keister, the chamber’s new tourism marketing director, said an outside firm would charge 50 to 60 percent of the cost of the contract for support costs. The chamber’s support costs are about 30 percent, she said.Linda Stoltzfus, a member of the new marketing board, called for the city to stick with the chamber.”We’ve made all these changes and it’s working,” she said.Following council’s discussion, chamber director Marianne Virgili said the chamber isn’t afraid of competing with others for the contract. But she also is happy with the apparent shift in council’s views about how the contract now is being administered.”I think it shows the progress of the tourism board and Stephanie’s expertise,” she said.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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