Gray: MCTA accusations untrue

Commissioner practically begs MCTA Board to participate in budget process, recording verifies

Transcript

Below is a transcript of a portion of the October meeting referenced in the article. The conversation is between Moffat County Commissioner Tom Gray and Moffat County Tourism Association Board Chairman, and Craig Daily Press Publisher, Bryce Jacobson. The transcript has been edited slightly for clarity.

Gray: “Would you rather see us change your budget during the preliminary and then you can look at it, and have a second shot? Or, as we talked about last week, we’ll leave it as is during the preliminary, but if you haven’t done anything by the final, then we’ll make the changes.”

Jacobson: “If the commissioners are going to be open to taking our advice (of reducing visitor center funding) , then I’d like to have that (second) round of discussion. But if they’re pretty set, I think that’s a waste of your time and a waste of our time.”

Gray: “Speaking for myself, I don’t unappreciate what you are trying to do, but it seems like it would be better if you looked at it.

Jacobson: “My reply to that Tom is that we’ve already done that, we’ve already made what we thought were the appropriate cuts and I think it would be an exercise in futility.”

Gray: “The point is, if we increase visitor center funding by $10,000, we’re going to have to find that money by making cuts to other line items. It seems like we (the commission) can do that, but it’s not what I want to do…I do appreciate all of the work you’ve done and I want you to have input.”

Jacobson: “My opinion is that we’ve already done that. To do it again would be an exercise in futility. I think once you get the preliminary budget to us, I think our board will probably address our action plans at the next meeting and if we think there’s any chance of changing that we’ll probably come talk to you, but I hope you understand what I’m saying. You want our feedback, but you already have our feedback.”

Gray: “We had a commission workshop yesterday talking about some things on the preliminary budget and my personal opinion was that we should make the cuts in the preliminary and give you a chance to look at it. That was not the consensus however. The consensus was leave it like it is and if they don’t do the changes on their own accord by the time the final comes, then we’ll do it and it will be final. I didn’t really like that, but that’s what the consensus was.”

Jacobson: “And I think that’s fine. In my opinion, if the commissioners are willing to take the decision in the community and follow your rule, I mean you guys have the stick, we don’t have a stick.”

Gray: “So, what you’re saying is you’d prefer to just wait for the final?”

Jacobson: “No, I said if you have the preliminary budget great, we’ll look at it. But I don’t think we’re going to have a conversation, I don’t think it’s going to be a good conversation. It’s harmful to the relationship, it’s bad for the community.”

Gray: “If I go back to my other two commissioners, should I tell them you don’t want to work on it?”

Jacobson: “You know what I just told you and I’ll call them individually.”

Last week members of the Moffat County Tourism Association Board accused the Moffat County Commission, specifically Commissioner Tom Gray, of hijacking their budget.

The rift stems back to July when MCTA submitted a proposed 2013 budget that cut, among other line items, funding for the Colorado Welcome Center in Dinosaur and the Craig Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center by a combined $9,830.

The commission responded that visitor center funding needed to be maintained at 2012 levels and recommended MCTA make additional cuts to other line items to cover those funds.

But MCTA Board members claim they have been shut out from participating in that budget cut process.

On Friday Gray not only said those accusations weren’t true, but he also backed it up.

Though MCTA Director Melody Villard said last week her board members requested input on the budget process during a November meeting, Gray said that conversation took place in October.

And, according to an audio recording of that October meeting, not only did MCTA approve, 3-2, putting their budget in the hands of the commissioners they also declined to participate in the budget cut process.

Gray tried, on numerous occasions, to get the board to reconsider.

A transcript of a portion of the recorded conversation between Gray and Bryce Jacobson, MCTA chairman and publisher of the Craig Daily Press, is available at www.craigdailypress.com.

Gray also addressed accusations raised by MCTA board member Leona Hemmerich, who stated last week the current board of county commissioners are not transparent and do not follow Colorado’s Sunshine Laws.

“The charge in this newspaper article is that we excluded them and we didn’t want to hear from them,” Gray said. “I practically begged them to participate and have input, but what I heard from them is that it’s not going to make any difference.

“My point is, the charges that we’re not transparent, that we didn’t want to work with them, that we excluded them from the process is absolutely untrue. Bryce said it, ‘you make the changes.’

“I will tell you that when Bryce Jacobson is the chair of the MCTA Board, and the publisher of the newspaper at the same time, it’s pretty hard to get a fair shake.”

Jacobson has this to say in response.

"My role as chairperson of the MCTA has nothing to do with my role as Editor/Publisher of the Craig Daily Press. I abstain from any vote that might come even close to being a conflict of interest. I stay out of news decisions regarding MCTA from the newspaper’s perspective. Mr. Gray’s comment is unfounded and out of line.

"The true difficulty of this situation is that one of the Moffat County Commissioners has a family member that is affected by decisions made by the MCTA and as long as it doesn’t go in their favor, the commission thinks MCTA is the bad guy. The MCTA board has done everything in its power to cooperate with a board that is only interested in ensuring funding for the visitor centers. That is not what we are charged with, but as I have said, if that is what they want then we will work within their guidelines, although I don’t think what this community voted into law several years ago."

Joe Moylan can be reached at 875-1794 or jmoylan@craigdailypress.com

Comments

Melody Villard 1 year, 7 months ago

I wanted to take a moment to clarify my comments with regard to input in the budget process.

The feeling of being shut out of the budget process comes from not having the opportunity to participate in the three workshops that the Commission held regarding the budget that we presented in July.

Our initial feedback from Tom Gray was given after the commission held a workshop in August to discuss the budget that the MCTA presented in July. It was agreed that in hind sight it would have been beneficial to have the MCTA participate in that workshop. There have been two additional workshops in which the MCTA budget was discussed. Both of those workshops were held without contacting the MCTA for input.

In each of the MCTA meetings with our Commissioner Liaison present and the MCTA workshop held with all three Commissioners in attendance for at least part of the discussion, the MCTA Board asked for input on which line items the Commission would like to see reduced to make up for the cuts that were made to the entire budget including the operational costs of the two supported Visitor Centers. The Commissioners had no specific suggestions for the MCTA Board to follow within those discussions, simply asking the MCTA to adjust the proposed budget to first fund the visitor centers at the current levels and use the remaining revenue projections to market the County’s tourism opportunities how the Board sees fit.

The 2013 Budgeting shortfall is not in the annual revenues…it is in the financially sound management of the fund. It is in carrying out the task of marketing tourism and in doing such paying for key marketing progress….brand platform, marketing plan, strategic planning and funds to carry that out, a tourism driven website with the ability to create conversions from a mere passing interest in the area to overnight stays that will in turn increase the revenues.

to be continued

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Melody Villard 1 year, 7 months ago

continued from above.

It is in allocating funds in a manner that will ensure the reserve balance that the BOCC has requested is met. We are budgeting to spend $164,826.00 in 2013 while projecting revenue at $139,350, leaving just over 30% estimated in reserve. In 2012 the budget was set at $218,400 and the projected revenue was $104,400. All of this still rebounding from the 2011 budget that the BOCC approved of $378,942 while the revenues where projected to come in at $155,037. If we do not take an honest look at the years before and the work it will take to correct in the years following we will simply be spending money in the same shot gun pattern that has proven unsuccessful in the past. While the large reserves that the MCTA has had in past years has proven to be very beneficial in the research and rebranding process, the need to set a sustainable spending pattern within the revenues that are collected will be crucial to the longevity and progress of the marketing fund.

This year is truly pivotal in not only bringing this fund back to a sustainable budget process but in launching Moffat County Tourism into the 21st century with regards to tourism and what we are working so hard to accomplish with the brand and conversions.

When that is taken into consideration when addressing this fund, we may actually start to get somewhere with tourism. Moffat County Tourism as it is currently constructed will be the driving force in increasing tourism revenues and evening out the boom/bust economy that this region has come to accept.

We are so much larger, as is our task, than any ONE line item in our budget.

As always I am available for questions, comments, suggestions and discussion. Please feel free to call or stop by my office. Thank you, Melody Villard Tourism Director - Moffat County Tourism Association 970-824-2335

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