The Steamboat Springs City Council agreed last week to commit the funding from the former vendor's fee to the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association to market Steamboat as a summer destination.
Some might not see this as a major commitment. The money has gone to the chamber for several years, ever since vendors authorized remitting the fees to the city for summer marketing. But because the city kept the fees in its community support program, there was always the chance the chamber could wind up competing with other organizations for the funding.
That would not be right, given that the vendors' intent was that the fees be used to market and promote the community in hopes of attracting more people and thus more business. The City Council was correct in asking staff to fix the loophole by separating the vendor's fee funding from the community support area.
Still, there are those who would argue that the city provides too much funding to the chamber. Ironically, the critics' primary argument is one of the best arguments for the funding that summer marketing works. They blame the chamber and marketing for bringing larger crowds and traffic jams to Steamboat and fear such crowds will lead to unwanted growth and development.
These critics, it seems, would rather go back to the days when businesses closed and the streets were empty during the summer.
That's a foolish notion. The summer season has become as important to Steamboat's economy and to city sales tax coffers as ski season.
Some suggested at the council meeting that the chamber should consider pursuing a tax in November to fund summer marketing. We don't think that's a smart strategy, given the existing tax burden and the funding mechanisms already in place.
Overall, city funding of the chamber for summer marketing the former vendor's fees and city funding combined is down by nearly $100,000 this year to $478,000. Given the budget woes the city faced entering the new fiscal year, perhaps such cuts were unavoidable.
But with the most recent sales tax report showing a 7-percent decline in January receipts and no signs of immediate improvement, a strong case could be made that now is the time to market Steamboat more vigorously, not less.
Crowds and traffic on Lincoln Avenue during the summer may be a hassle for locals, but they also demonstrate the success of chamber's marketing effort. And a city that relies as heavily on sales tax for its funding as Steamboat does would be hard pressed to find a better return on its investment.