Taylor was first to speak. He told the council that the Tourism
Bureau is stuck in a “Catch 22” situation, and he and Davenport had
come to the council to ask for their help.
Taylor recapped that the bureau is currently without a director
since the resignation of Maggie (McMurtrey) Sinclair. An interim
director has been appointed, but no real search has begun for a new
permanent director. The bureau needs to move forward with hiring
someone quickly, but it doesn’t feel that it can attract quality
candidates when there is no funding agreement for the 2017 fiscal
Taylor also explained that at the end of January, the grant
application is due for the state tourism funding the bureau receives
each year. That application needs to have the name of the permanent
director included. Taylor said the Catch 22 was that they needed to
hire a director to get state funding, but they couldn’t hire a
director without the city’s commitment.
Taylor also reported that the tourism board is down to five members
from eight. Sal Pollice who was assigned as part of the Logan County
Alliance program has resigned after the dissolution of the LCA. Just
days prior to Taylor and Davenport appearing before the council,
Renee Martin and Paresh Patel also resigned.
In addition, there have been some complications with the management
of the Tourism Bureau in the wake of decisions made by the
Lincoln/Logan County Chamber of Commerce. The move by the chamber
out of the building on Fifth Street, where it shared space with the
tourism bureau, left the bureau contemplating whether or not it
could afford to stay or would it also have to move?
Taylor said that what the bureau needed from the city was a
decision; would the city be supporting the tourism bureau
financially in 2017.
Michelle Bauer said she thought that the council had given the
bureau direction a few weeks ago when Gail Sasse and Martin had come
to the council. There had been a consensus that the council would
sign on for another year, and the bureau had been told to draft an
agreement to that effect.
City Administrator Clay Johnson said that the interim director of
the bureau had contacted him for some clarification of the current
Tracy Welch said he had a few concerns about the current status of
the tourism board. He said he wondered if the board had a quorum
with so many positions now vacant. Davenport said that it did
because the current rules for the board call for a seven-member
council, so five would still be a majority. She added that the board
is looking to add new members, including a second appointee from the
city as well as the county.
Mayor Marty Neitzel asked why this was the first she heard of this.
She said she was more than willing to appoint a second city
representative, but had not been asked to do so. Davenport said the
reason no formal request had come about was because that requirement
is to be written into the tourism by-laws, which are not yet
Welch went on to say another concern right now was that
in the membership of the current tourism board, he is not confident
there are strong leaders with tourism experience. Welch said that
put him in a position where he would say the city should “take a
pause.” He noted that the bureau has reserve funds in its coffers,
enough to operate for a while. He suggested the tourism board get
some of the work done that it needs to do before the city offers
that final commitment.
Bauer countered saying that she had heard and understood what Taylor
was saying, it is going to be difficult to hire a quality person
when there is no guarantee of funding from the city. Welch concurred
that was a good point.
Neitzel also noted that the bureau is now
looking at a very tight deadline for hiring someone because of the
state grant application due the end of January.
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Taylor said it was, but if the city makes a commitment, the bureau
will dive into searching for a director and will get it done by the
deadline. He told the council that his experience on the tourism
bureau had taught him some good lessons. He explained that as a
businessman in Lincoln if he loses an employee, that lost person can
easily be replaced in most cases. But here, with the tourism bureau,
there is a need for a well-qualified person who can lead the bureau
and work for the good of the city and the county. He added that the
board could more than likely hire a person in the next few days, but
he didn’t feel it would be right to make a decision without doing a
Referring to Welch’s comments about some of the unfinished business with the
bureau, Taylor said that the bureau has once again found itself in “another big
mess,” but board members are not sitting on their hands, they are making every
effort to work through the problems once again.
The members of the council by the nod of the head seemed to agree that the
bureau is in a precarious situation right now and that the city is going to be
taking a risk if it goes forward with funding the bureau. The suggestion was
made by Johnson that the city add an addition contingency to the funding
agreement that would give it an out if the bureau can’t get back up to speed. He
said the city could add a 30-day escape clause for the city and the bureau. The
agreement would be made for a 12 month period, but with the escape clause, at
any time the city was not satisfied with the work of the bureau it could give a
30-day notice that funding would be suspended. Likewise, the tourism bureau
could also choose not to accept funding from the city with the same 30-day
Davenport said that what the tourism bureau needs is a long-term commitment from
the city. She said even the state is getting tired of the situation in Lincoln,
because, with each new director it has to provide training and orientation.
Bauer commented that the state grant is not a major portion of the funding for
the bureau. In all, the state provides $30,000 while the city is providing
roughly $175,000 to 200,000. Steve Parrott, who serves as the city appointee on
the tourism board said that was true, but the real significance of the state
grant was that it brought with it the official designation that the Logan County
Tourism Bureau is a state tourism bureau. He said that was more important than
In the end, the council agreed that it could vote on a one-year funding
agreement with the 30-day escape clause added.
The city of Lincoln currently collects the hotel-motel tax for all such
businesses within its city limits. The dollars collected are then distributed to
tourism functions with the primary bulk of the funds going to the state
santioned Logan County Tourism Bureau. Last year, the council decided to keep 15
percent of the total collection for city backed tourism investments. A portion
of that money was used last year for the Third Fridays Downtown Lincoln events.
Money was also given to the Mill on Route 66 from those dollars, and there is
currently a balance remaining.
Welch asked if under those circumstances, should the city consider adjusting the
percentage split and give the Logan County Bureau 95 percent of the tax dollars
collected. Parrott commented that with the bureau once again searching for a new
director, the added dollars could be helpful there.
City Treasurer Chuck Conzo suggested that the city make no changes to the
distribution at this time. He added that the budget building process for the
2017-18 fiscal year is nearing, and the city could revisit that amount then. All
present appeared to be in agreement.
At the conclusion of the discussion, the council asked that an item be placed on
this week’s voting agenda. The action item will be to vote to accept or reject
funding of the Logan County Tourism Bureau for the calendar year January 1
through December 31, 2017, the fiscal year for the Logan County Tourism Bureau.