City, Chamber discuss dollars

CRESWELL – The City of Creswell is on the sidelines when it comes to tourism, and as the Chamber tourism contract comes up for renewal, council is reconsidering its involvement.
City council this week at its work session examined the contract, which gives the Chamber full reign to spend the City’s tourism money. Council also considered forming a sub-committee that would marry with the Chamber board on tourism matters and considered whether the City should be responsible for tourism itself.
The Chamber is responsible for tourism on the City’s behalf, City Manager Michelle Amberg said. With the money, the Chamber staffs and operates the Visitor Information Center and organizes events like the Communitywide Yard Sale, Fourth of July, Winter Lights, and publishes a newcomers and visitors guide.
In 2019, the Chamber’s total projected expenses amount to Visitor Information Center: $17,220.88; Communitywide Yard Sale: $3,044.19; July Fourth: $25,814; Winter Lights: $$3,306.69; Creswell Visitor & Newcomers Guide: $2,701.20; Other marketing: $2,118.09; Destination Development: $0; and Grant administration: $1,485.74.
”Contracting out the tourism was one way to make sure tourism dollars were set aside for tourism reasons, therefore making it very transparent where the tourism money is going,” Amberg said.
With the three-year contract, paid on a quarterly basis, the City pays the Chamber money received through the county’s Rural Tourism Marketing Program and the Transient Room Tax.
The Chamber has had a rocky year, from finances to board commitments to budget issues.
Finance Director Jim Piper said that tourism revenue has taken a significant decline since the closure of the Super 8 Motel, which burned from two fires on Thanksgiving 2018. Due to the decline in that room tax, the City is proposing a $15,243 decrease in the contract, dropping the proposed contract to $31,225.
The board has experienced turnover. Board treasurer Debi Wilson resigned in early 2019 and that position has still not been filled. President Scott Olson resigned in November and that position was left vacant until last month, when Raina Napper assumed the role. Past president and board member Joel Higdon resigned in January 2020 after 10 years serving on the board.
The board’s 2019 budget not voted on and approved until November 2019.
Council considered how much the City should be involved in tourism, and questioned whether it should operate tourism itself. Amberg suggested that the City does not have to support Chamber programs and activities and could instead support other tourism with city tourism dollars.
Though more transparent budgeting practices have since been put in place at the City that would allow it to handle the funds more efficiently, if the City dropped the contract with the Chamber, ”the City would have to go into the tourism business,” Amberg said, noting that it would also likely lose its Visitor Center.
Council President Amy Knudsen said that if the City wanted to be more involved, a sub-committee could form on belalf of the City that would together with Chamber. This would include City representatives that could offer input.
”They have a budget and scope of work,” Amberg said. ”Everyone knows what events the Chamber puts on. There is just no City input or direction where the money goes.”
McReynolds Jr. inquired how the Winter Lights Celebration cost $3,300, stating that she was at the event and it didn’t appear to have cost that much money. Chamber Administrator Don Amberg was in the audience and said there were many costs involved with Winter Lights, like paying for eventainment, canopy rentals, decorations, permits and insurance and staffing costs.
Councilor Alonzo Costilla asked if the council could see a more detailed breakdown of costs per event. ”That level of detail is getting into micromanaging and I don’t think this committee is about that,” Manager Amberg said.
McReynolds suggested council leave the contract in place for a moment and come up with a liaison or committee to work with the Chamber board. ”I think we need to all do it better,” McReynolds said. ”The long gain is strengthening Creswell tourism in general. The answer is always more work. We need more hands.”
The conversation will be continued at a future work session with representatives of the Chamber.



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