According to the Scotts Bluff County Board, a lack of communication is causing confusion over how the county will proceed with its tourism promotion.
The Scottsbluff-Gering United Chamber of Commerce has contracted with the county the last 14 years for tourism promotion. But with their contract coming to an end, the county board decided to ask for Requests for Proposals (RFP) to see if the service could be provided in a more cost efficient manner.
Three RFPs were submitted to the county. One was from the Chamber of Commerce, another from the City of Gering and a third from private contractor Glen Lussetto of Bridgeport.
The county board had already extended the Chamber’s contract until Sept. 30 to give the County Tourism Committee time to interview the candidates and evaluate their proposals prior to making a recommendation.
But at a special county board meeting on Aug. 29, Ken Mabery of the Tourism Committee’s RFP subcommittee asked the board to take no action on the RFPs until a “blue ribbon committee” be appointed. That committee would look into ways to enhance tourism in the area. Mabery said a broader vision for goals and directions needs to be established.
During the county board’s regular meeting, Commissioner Ken Meyer said he was still confused as to what the Tourism Committee wanted for the makeup of the blue ribbon committee.
Commission Chairman Mark Masterton said the county has a number of volunteer boards that advice them on possible actions to be taken.
“In this case, the Tourism Committee took it upon themselves to request proposals, which is fine with us,” Masterton said. “But the committee wasn’t able to come to agreement on how to proceed.”
Gering City Administrator Lane Danielzuk said he was prepared to ask questions of the Tourism Committee representative who wasn’t in attendance.
“I’ll refrain from asking those two questions tonight, but I do want answers from the Tourism Committee,” Danielzuk said.
One question he did ask concerned the RFP guidelines. He said they made no mention of a right to reject any of the proposals after they are accepted in their completed form.
“You have three RFPs that have been judged complete,” he said. “There is no reservation of any rights to halt the process prior to its completion. And there isn’t any right to change the scope or nature of any proposal.”
He said the City of Gering had been scheduled for an interview with the Tourism Committee on Sept. 7, but he wasn’t sure it that would take place. Both Lussetto and the Chamber said they haven’t been scheduled for interviews.
Commissioner Meyer said he had a problem with only one of the three groups submitting RFPs were scheduled for an interview. But there was no voting member of the Tourism Committee present to explain.
Karen Anderson, Chamber of Commerce executive director, said several dynamics have changed in the local tourism industry in the 14 years they’ve handled the contract. She cited the capital improvement tax that allows for bricks and mortar construction for tourism facilities and the hotel occupancy tax.
“There’s been some breakdown with the fact that this has turned into a contentious issue,” Masterton said. “The county board is probably going to step back, go back to the Tourism Committee and find out exactly where they stand before we make any decisions.”
Commissioner Mike Marker agreed the county board should take no action because of the confusion with the Tourism Committee scheduling interviews at the same time it was asking the RFP process be put on hold.
“My suggestion would be for the Tourism Committee meet soon and come up with something they can get back to the county with,” Meyer said. “Right now, no one really knows what’s going on, and I’ve been to their meetings.”
Masterton said there’s been a communications breakdown and it’s the job of the county board to help provide some direction for the all-volunteer Tourism Committee. Commissioner Meyer said he plans to attend the Sept. 14 tourism meeting. The county board will next meet on Sept. 19.