Contract for town tourism strategy approved on split vote; cost tripled

A contract was awarded for the town to proceed with a corporate tourism strategy despite a tripling of the cost and opposition

A contract was awarded for the town to proceed with a corporate tourism strategy despite a tripling of the cost and opposition from three councillors.

Councillors voted 4-3 to award the contract to Western Management Consultants in association with Miller Dickson Blais Ltd. in the amount of $60,000 plus tax.

The town’s budget, passed last December, included $20,000 for the project.

Three responses were received from the request for proposals and evaluated by a project selection committee comprised of Tim Schmidt (director of planning and development), Joanne Gaudet (communications officer) and Vicki Kurz (economic development officer).

The successful bidder will provide a comprehensive strategy, indicated Kurz.

“The development of a strategy to this detail and magnitude would typically cost between $45,000 and $75,000,” she wrote in her report.

“The selection committee agreed to recommend the town move forward with a thorough strategy that will guide council in the next term.”

Kurz also noted the strategy would be presented to council in September. “This would allow ample time to prepare budgets for the implementation plan components and to source funding in the winter of 2013-14.

“I like the idea that we continue on this year for some implementation next year,” said Councillor Dale Plante who noted creation of the strategy is a high priority. “If we’re going to do it, we need to do it right.”

However Councillor Laverne Asselstine wasn’t sold. “We’re going to spend $60,000 just to kick off the whole process,” he said noting Kurz’s comments about implementation costs in next year’s budget. He added he’s always concerned about what he calls ‘creep’. “Adding up numbers we’re starting to go up and up and up with regards to tourism.”

“Where I see the benefit,” said Councillor Sean McIntyre, “is in the efficiency for dollars. We have an affinity for tourism but we don’t have a plan, that’s where the scaled down option worries me.”

One of the bids was for $24,900, but that was for “a broader strategy” and so ranked low by the committee.

Councillor Graham Parsons also supported putting a plan in place “to save money in the long run”.

“I’m still not convinced we need to spend a lot of money attracting more people to this community,” said Councillor Ken MacVicar. Noting we already attract about one million people a year, he said, “I’m not so sure we, as a council, need to be the impetus. The business community are the ones who really benefit from this. The strategy is $60,000, who knows what the implementation cost is — I don’t support it at this point.”

Councillor Rick Grimson agreed with MacVicar and Asselstine. “The tourism industry has survived for 100 years, what’s the urgency.” He was concerned about where the additional money was coming from to pay for the strategy.

Mayor Susan Samson argued in favour of the strategy. She said the town has spent over $20 million in the lakeshore area and even though it attracts a million visitors those people aren’t spending money in the community. “If we don’t capitalize on our investment we’ve made a horrendous mistake.”

“We can’t put the brakes on and expect things to happen,” Samson said.

Plante added with the plan they can get ‘buy-in’ from businesses. “But we need a plan for them to buy-in. We are here to facilitate it. We don’t have to be in the driver’s seat. We have to get the resources out there. If it’s a clear enough strategy they will buy in.”

Voting in favour of awarding the contract were Samson, McIntyre, Plante and Parsons while MacVicar, Asselstine and Grimson voted against.