Council to consider seeking bids on contract chamber long has held
Glenwood Springs City Council tonight will consider seeking bids on a tourism marketing contract held for decades by the local chamber.City Council may put the work out for bid after increasing concerns over the chamber’s handling of the contract, which is funded by accommodation tax revenues and exceeds more than $500,000 per year.City manager Jeff Hecksel said in a memo to council that research indicates the chamber has held the contract since the 1970s. He couldn’t determine whether the contract has ever been bid.Mayor Larry Emery said if the city seeks bids, the chamber would be welcome to submit a proposal.”I’ve got nothing against the chamber. If the chamber can provide the best service for us we should be going with the chamber,” he said.On the other hand, there are some “phenomenal” local advertising agencies in the area, he added.”It’s a good time to take a look and see what everybody can offer,” he said.Marianne Virgili, the chamber’s chief executive officer, said she assumes the chamber will submit a proposal if the contract goes out for bid.”The chamber has been doing this function long before there’s even been an accommodations tax, so it’s hard to imagine who else would be doing this function,” she said.”I would hope our past performance would speak for itself,” she added.She said the chamber has a track record of increasing the city’s accommodation tax revenues, has strong allies in the community and wins many national awards.Emery and others have raised questions over how much the city is getting in return for the money it pays the chamber. Tourism industry representatives have expressed similar concerns about the chamber’s administration of the fund, and the chamber recently created a new tourism board made up of people within the industry to oversee its handling of the contract.The chamber’s tourism marketing director, Lori Hogan, resigned from her position earlier this year. She had been highly regarded by city and tourism industry officials.Chamber employee Janet Rippy is serving as interim director, and the new board will be advertising to fill the position permanently. Virgili said she hopes Rippy will apply for the job.The chamber recently presented council with an update on its handling of the contract and what results its efforts are producing, and council members asked no questions.”We probably gave the appearance of everything’s perfect because we had no questions. That may not have been the proper impression,” Emery said.Before that presentation, Emery had said he wanted more information from the chamber about its work. He still feels the same way.”Did I get the detail that I’ve been looking for? No, I didn’t. That wasn’t the appropriate venue to ask those questions.”Council also has discussed the contract behind closed doors.Virgili said she’s willing to answer whatever questions Emery and others on council have.”Everything’s open. We have full disclosure. They’re welcome to ask anything,” she said.If the city decides to go out for bids, it must do so quickly. It has until Nov. 15 to decide whether to renew the contract, and the decision will affect the direction of next year’s tourism marketing efforts.Whatever happens, Emery is guessing the new contract will be drastically different from past ones. He said some of the issues being discussed are of the city’s own making, and also reflect the substantial growth in the size of the tourism marketing fund in recent years.Virgili said she thinks council is “doing due diligence” in considering bidding out its tourism marketing.”I think City Council is looking at all their contracts right now and tightening all their contracts,” she said.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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