What happened: As previously mentioned in the Million Dollar Mistake, the City Council cut one million dollars from the Atkins group in attempts to take a conservative spending approach. During a meeting last Wednesday, CVB Director Ed Caum brought one of the most pressing decisions up for discussion to the Convention and Visitors Advisory Board (CVAB). The question is whether now is the right time to recommend to City Council to approve a million-dollar contract extension for the Fiscal year of 2020/2021. According to an executive summary on agenda item 5.7, "Discussion and presentation of the Directors' Report," the Island business statistically has been on the rise back to last year's levels, after recovering from March/April due to the COVID-19 outbreak. (1:17:01)
(Screenshot from Ed Caum's Director report.
Last year: yellow. This year: blue.)
Why it matters: According to Caum and Atkins, this is the normal time of the year where marketing contracts are signed but, "times are not normal," says Caum. "We're dealing with a crystal ball situation here," commented Tom Goodman. The board's optimism is based on records showing the Island to be doing better now than in prior years. Only one-week later County beaches are closed, bars are closed, and restaurants are back down to 50% occupancy. In one week, COVID-19 cases became more prevalent in our communities and quickly started hitting close to home.
Caum requested the CVAB board to recommend the contract with the Atkins Group. After significant negative sentiment was expressed by the board Caum requested, "that you recommend to the council to entertain this contract moving us forward… Now is not the time to try to change agencies or to change what is working." Arnie Creinin voiced an implied rush to decision. "I think we should hold off…If we sign a contract with uncertainty, don't you think that might be an issue? I'm not saying that we should not do this deal, it's just I don't know why we're rushing so fast when we have a little bit of time here." Councilman Ken Medders stepped in to firmly agree with Creinin, "Let's just step back for 30 days. I'm speaking as an individual. I can't speak for the council or as a council member…but I think we better step back."
After confusion and push back, Creinin asked, "Steve (Atkins) is there a rush? Be honest." Atkins stepped in to explain, "If you don't book it to reserve it, kind of like a room, a reservation in a restaurant. If you don't book it in advance to hold your position, there's nothing on the other end that says you have to fulfill it. You can cancel, but if you don't book it in advance, then somebody else can have it, and then you cannot have it." Lori Moore (CVB's Accountant) advised the board that there is not a long of time and tabling it would prolong the process. "I only want to tell you for budget purposes and timing, we don't have a lot of time, we have to make a decision on the budget come mid-July because then we have to go to city council per home rulecharters, we have to put it in place. So we can make the meeting sooner." After about 30 minutes of discussion on whether they needed to make an immediate decision or just table it, Chad Hart mentioned that whether they say yes or no, the final decision is ultimately up to City Council. "We're just making a recommendation too. We're not deciding yay or nay anyway. We're an advisory board," says Hart. The CVAB tabled the motion.
What now: Caum encouraged and welcomed community input. "I would like to encourage anyone who wants to have input on marketing our Island to visitors to share their ideas with the CVA Board. The board is appointed by the City Council as representatives of the hospitality industry on the Island, so input from residents and local business leaders is always welcome."