County Tourism Promotion Services Remain Unsettled
At its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 30, Marinette County Board approved a $90,000 one-year contract for tourism promotion services with the City of Marinette, but long-term handling of tourist promotion in the county remains far from settled.
When it started, Marinette County Tourism Alliance was a sub-unit of Marinette County Association for Business and Industry (MCABI). Later the Alliance separated tourism into a unit of its own because the combined workload was too heavy for the MCABI director.
The Alliance recommendation at the time was to form its own non-profit corporation and contract with the county on a format similar to that of MCABI.
Subsequently, in what were supposed to be temporary situations, tourism was turned over to Marinette Area Chamber of Commerce before becoming a department of county government with a part-time Tourism Coordinator. The person hired for that job resigned last fall, and since then County Administrator John LeFebvre and his staff have been handling tourism responsibilities.
A few months ago LeFebvre and County Board Chair Mark Anderson had asked MCABI to consider taking tourism under its wing again. After a series of meetings, one of them a joint session with the Alliance, MCABI directors had tentatively agreed to do that.
At a meeting on Jan. 9 the MCABI Executive Committee agreed to form a development committee to consider how to handle the tourism proposal. They agreed that committee would be comprised of the Executive Committee ( Chair John Deschane, County Supervisor Shirley Kaufman (chair of the County Board's Economic Development and Tourism Committee), Mike Kunesh, and MCABI Secretary Patrick Mans, plus board members Gary Langer and Mike Meade, and to ask County Board to increase MCABI funding from $82,826 to $90,000 for 2018 to cover costs associated with investigating the possible addition of tourism services.
That proposal was brought to County Board's Economic Development and Tourism Committee at its meeting on Monday, Jan. 15 by Ann Hartnell and Deschane. There it met with questions and objections and action was postponed for more information on motion by Tricia Grebin and a second from Bill Stankevich. County Board Chair Mark Anderson, present for the meeting as an ex officio committee member, asked for a financial report from MCABI.
After taking no action on the $90,000 funding request, the committee approved paying the first half of the existing $82,826 contract amount for MCABI services, and also agreed to partner with Crivitz Recreation Association to represent the county at trade shows, and recommended County Board approval of the $90,000 1-year contract with the City of Marinette for Marketing and Tourism Services that was approved by the full board on Jan. 30.
Also at the Jan. 15 Economic Development and Tourism Committee meeting, retiring MCABI Executive Director Ann Hartnell introduced Lindsay Callow, who officially took over the position on Wednesday, Jan. 3.
In other business, Hartnell reported that an Economic Development Advisory Committee has been formed to provide input on the overall development of the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy. Participants will be providing information on the state of their local economies, identify regional economic needs or issues, and to develop a strategy-driven plan for regional economic development. Bay Lakes Regional Planning Commission continues to work on the Housing Study commissioned by Marinette County.
Much of Hartnell's time as director was spent supervising planning for and construction of the recently completed multi-million dollar Maritime Center For Excellence in Marinette, which is to be dedicated in ceremonies at 3:30 pm. on Wednesday, Jan. 31. Half of the building is dedicated to secure offices for Navy personnel affiliated with military ship construction at Marinette Marine. The other half consists of "incubator" facilities for fledgling businesses, offices for MCABI and other entities, and facilities rented to Bellin Health Services.
The Economic Development and Tourism Committee was also advised that because of her experience with the Maritime Center, and in an effort to make transition easier for the incoming Executive Director, the MCABI Executive Committee, after discussion in closed session at a meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 9, had decided to pay Hartnell $35 per hour for up to 160 hours to work with the next Executive Director on a part-time basis. Minutes of that meeting state that after returning to open session the Executive Committee had also agreed to pay Hartnell "a bonus as discussed in closed session upon retirement in January." Amount of that bonus was not included in the minutes.
Deschane later confirmed in a telephone conversation that the bonus amount was $10,000. Asked why it had been awarded, Deschane said during the five years she worked for MCABI as Executive Director she had received no benefits, and "for what we paid her without benefits, she was extremely under paid."
MCABI's request for funds to look into providing tourism services was tentatively slated to come up again at the next Economic Development and Tourism Committee meeting, which is scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday, Feb. 19 in the courthouse annex in Marinette.
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