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County considers tourism options
May 05, 2011 Jerry Purvis   
Scotts Bluff County Commissioners have given the go-ahead for the County Tourism Committee to seek proposals for providing tourism marketing assistance.

For the past 13 years, the county has contracted with the Scottsbluff/Gering United Chamber of Commerce, which provides a tourism director.

Rick Keller, chairman of the tourism committee, said the contract was set up for automatic annual renewal for the first 10 years. Three years ago, the committee renegotiated the contract, but made only minor changes.

“Executive committee members met and decided that since the contract hasn’t been closely examined for the last 13 years, we wanted to know if the taxpayers were getting the best value for their dollars,” Keller told the county board.

The county currently collects approximately $250,000 a year in lodging taxes. The chamber contract is for about $85,000.

The county tourism executive committee decided to submit requests for proposals (RFP) for any group that would like to provide tourism promotional services.

“We don’t know if the chamber is out of line in what we pay them,” Keller said. “There’s no way to tell unless we actually check.”

Keller told the county board their current tourism contract with the chamber expires on June 30. However, they proposed an extension until the end of September to allow time for RFPs to be advertised and submitted. An RFP is expected to be ready by July 1.

The county board will consider whether to extend the contract during its May 16 meeting.
County Commissioner Ken Meyer asked Keller whether there were other tourism models being used in the state that might provide some cost savings.

Keller said there are three basic models in use: counties using one of their own employees to promote tourism, counties that contract with a city employee, such as Omaha, and counties that employ an independent contractor, such as Scotts Bluff County.

County Commissioner Sherry Blaha said her only concern was the county’s ongoing relationship with the Chamber of Commerce.

“We’d hope that it wouldn’t change,” Keller said. “I think everyone should feel comfortable that this is the best price the taxpayers are getting.”

Karen Anderson, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, said she’s looking forward to seeing what kind of proposals are submitted, adding they must be doing something right because lodging tax revenues have been up since they’ve had the contract.

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