By MARK EVANS
During last Thursday’s county commission meeting, the topic of tourism came up.
First District Commissioner Karen Stuppy reported on the Tourism Advisory Council and Tourism Tax Commission’s joint meeting earlier that week, at which a task force was formed.
She said that the tourism department has an $89,548 budget, with $45,000-50,000 going toward a tourism director’s salary, plus about $40,000 a year for part-time people.
She noted that he idea of having an assistant director had also been brought up.
Presiding Commissioner Garry Nelson said that in addition to the $5,000 the county has annually kicked in to pay the tourism director salary, the county has made other considerable investments in tourism. For instance, he said it has given $13,000-14,000 to support billboard advertising.
Nelson said the county has supported area tourism a lot more than it’s been given credit for doing.
He recalled that the tourism position originated with Marv Harman holding the position and operating out of the old County Services Building. The Chamber of Commerce and Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) were also involved at that time, along with the city. Harman also had the title “economic development director.”
The IDC pulled out in 2004, and Harmon died in February 2006, and, Nelson said the concept “went away, completely.”
Discussion turned to the dissatisfaction many in the tourism industry have expressed over the Welcome Center. Now largely manned by National Park Service (NPS) personnel, it is no longer a place to get detailed information from a receptive local staff.
The city is maintaining an area within the building, but will no longer have office space for the tourism director.
The idea was bought up of room possibly being made for the next tourism director to work out of the Chamber of Commerce office.
“Is there office space there?” Nelson asked.
“By being owners of the building, I wouldn’t have any problem with them joining with the tourism director,” Nelson added.
The other commissioners agreed that it would be a good idea to pursue.
“Once again it’s a county building and we need to utilize but the best way we can,” Nelson said. “It’s only being used half the time with the chamber. That would cut the expense down on having to pay utilities on another building. Just food for thought.”