MCTA to move offices, looks to settle Chamber MOU debate |

MCTA to move offices, looks to settle Chamber MOU debate

Michelle Balleck

The Moffat County Tourism Association Board expressed its desire to move forward in its mission at a special meeting Wednesday.

The board approved signing a contract for new office space and discussed finalizing revisions to its memorandum of understanding with the Craig Chamber of Commerce, City of Craig and Moffat County.

"Sales and marketing is our mission. I want to do that. That's the fun part," board member Kerry Moe said.

The board hopes to focus on that mission in its new office location in suite 117 on the east end of Centennial Mall, 1111 W. Victory Way.

MCTA is currently located in the northwest corner of the Museum of Northwest Colorado, 590 Yampa Ave. MCTA's current lease with the museum expires Nov. 30.

At the museum, MCTA has 224 square feet of office space plus shared storage and kitchen space for $416.66 per month, which includes utilities.

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The mall location, at 2,591 square feet, will offer "a lot of wonderful potential," Moe said, for reaching more visitors and offering displays.

The 39-month contract states rent will be $800 per month for the first year, $900 per month the second year and $1,000 per month the third year.

The board approved, 4-1, Wednesday spending $800 a month on the office space. Board member Bryce Jacobson, who is the publisher of the Craig Daily Press, voted against the measure.

Board chairwoman Kandee Dilldine said an "out" in the contract after one year provides the MCTA board an opportunity to decide whether to stay at the mall and to negotiate future rent at that time.

Dilldine also said the $800 security deposit cited in the contract is covered by the $800 for the first month's rent.

MCTA Director Melody Villard said the water costs are included in rent but that electricity and gas are estimated at an additional $180 per month.

MCTA has $9,000 budgeted for rent in 2012. The total estimated expense of the mall location with utilities is $11,760 for the first year.

Additionally, MCTA will need to pay for Internet access, which it previously used expense-free from the museum and which is not currently accounted for in its 2012 budget.

Dilldine said the board has not yet discussed the discrepancies and will likely submit a supplemental to its 2012 budget to cover the expenses. The difference will either be taken from another budget item or from the reserve fund, she said.

Dilldine said MCTA owns a desk and a filing cabinet, and that the board has not discussed further expenditures to furnish the new office location.

She does not know when MCTA will open its doors at the mall.

Dilldine said MCTA intends to keep regular hours at the new location, with volunteers covering the office when Villard, who attends work-related meetings and is limited to 30 hours per week, is away.

Jacobson said he isn't sure that a move to the mall is the best decision.

"I'm still half and half," he said. "…I don't think it's the right thing completely. I don't think it's the wrong thing."

Moe contends the mall space is a "wonderful, viable option."

"I think (the mall operators are) eager and aggressive to get us in there because they realize it's a win-win situation," Moe said.

The board was divided on whether the new location should be considered an office or a visitor center.

The Moffat County resolution from 1988 establishing the lodging tax tourism fund MCTA administers states, "Whereas, no revenue collected from such lodging tax shall be expended for any capital expenditures, with the exception of tourist information centers."

The Craig Chamber of Commerce currently operates the Moffat County Visitor Center, to which MCTA contributes about $25,000 annually.

Dilldine said she sees MCTA's space as an office.

"I consider it to be office space, just the same as what we had at the museum," Dilldine said.

Not all board members agreed.

"You can call it whatever you want," Jacobson said. "It's a visitor center."

On Wednesday, the board also discussed the current visitor center and an MOU between MCTA, the Chamber, the city and the county for funding contributed to operate the visitor center.

Representatives from all four entities will meet at 11 a.m. Tuesday in the second-floor conference room at Colorado Northwestern Community College's Craig campus, 2801 W. Ninth St., to try to agree on revisions to the document.

The MCTA board, which had previously requested quarterly financial reports, agreed Wednesday to ask the Chamber for annual financial reporting and regular visitor and website statistics.

"It's not really our job to tell them how to spend that money, just to see that it's spent on visitors," Villard said.

But board member Tom Mikesell said organizers of events MCTA funds are expected to give reports on how their dollars were spent, and the Chamber's operation of the visitor center should be no different.

"Why doesn't the Chamber do the same thing for the monies we pay them? Why do they not feel they have to account to us?" Mikesell said. "Somebody's gotta answer for me. I'm tired of sitting here being held hostage by the Chamber of Commerce."

Christina Oxley, executive director of the Chamber, said she already provides MCTA with annual financial reporting, visitor statistics and access to the organizations' shared website.

The Chamber tracks the number of requests it receives via phone, walk-ins and mail. The only reporting she will likely not be able to provide, Oxley said, is the purpose for each contact the Chamber's staff makes with the nearly 13,000 people — excluding website visits — each year.

She said to report each request requires too much time to track.

Moe said if the two boards currently agree to the proposed terms, the organizations should skip the meeting and focus on tourism marketing. But other MCTA board members said sitting down in a room with Chamber board members might help to improve a strained relationship.

"There's been friction between the two boards since day one," said MCTA board co-chair Leona Hemmerich, who was participating in the meeting via teleconference. "… I think it's a good idea to hammer it out."

At the end of the one-hour meeting, MCTA aims to have a completed MOU that each organization can sign at its next meeting.

Oxley said the Chamber has the same goal.

"I hope we can end this debate about the MOU and actually get on track with what the MOU was originally intended to do, which is provide stability to the visitor center," Oxley said.

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In other action …

At its special meeting Wednesday, the Moffat County Tourism Association Board also:

• Tabled a decision on funding requests from Northwest Colorado Cultural Heritage Tourism.

• Approved, 5-0, requesting the Moffat County Commission to waive a bid process to spend up to $22,500 with Hill Aevium marketing firm for a marketing plan, brand development, logo review and finalization, and creative, concept and development.

• Approved, 4-1, a statement that MCTA is the marketing entity for Moffat County. Bryce Jacobson voted against.

• Approved, 5-0, spending $636 to cover advertising at Yampa Valley Regional Airport for April and May 2012 to bring the total 2012 advertising at the airport to $1,908.

• Discussed possibly revising MCTA’s event funding application.

Note: Board member Tammie Thompson-Booker was absent from Monday’s meeting.