Rotary Club of Steamboat Springs hosts candidate forum
October 11, 2011
Steamboat Springs — The field of Steamboat Springs City Council candidates agreed Tuesday that it's important for the community to market its summertime attractions, but they differed on how best to accomplish it.
All eight council candidates appeared at the weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of Steamboat Springs at The Steamboat Grand. The candidates are: Richard Levy and incumbent Scott Myller in District 1; at-large incumbent Bart Kounovsky in District 2; Sonja Macys and Dave Moloney in District 3; and John Fielding, Kevin Kaminski and Daryl Levin for the at-large seat.
The candidates each had three minutes to introduce themselves before answering three questions, including ones that addressed economic development and whether they would support the development of a Target store in Steamboat. They differed the most on the question about summer marketing.
The current City Council gave preliminary approval to the 2012 budget Oct. 4. It included $700,000 in funding for the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association — $600,000 for summer marketing and $100,000 for special events.
Levy said tourism always will be a foundation of Steamboat's economy, but he said he was surprised when he learned that the city funded all of the Chamber's summer marketing efforts.
"I would ask the business owners, and probably many of you in this room, why this isn't a team effort," he said. "Why is the city solely responsible for doing summer marketing? I'm just stymied. Everyone should be chipping in, and the city should be paying a percentage of that — and that percentage should not be 100."
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Myller referenced the former vendor's fee. When the city did away with the 3.3 percent sales tax rebate for merchants who processed their own sales taxes in 1984, it continued to provide the same amount for summer marketing.
"In our current economy, that translates to about $600,000, so I will always support that vendor's fee amount of money," Myller said.
Kounovsky, running unopposed, said he was encouraged by a recent conversation the City Council had with the Chamber's board of directors about finding a sustainable funding source for summer marketing.
"The Chamber is committed and the council is committed to sit down and discuss some other funding mechanism besides just that straight $600,000 out of the general fund," he said. "So I'm looking forward to those conversations."
Moloney said that while the $700,000 the city will provide to the Chamber next year might seem like a lot, it's actually a very small part of the city's overall budget. He emphasized the importance of return on investment.
"Let's get some metrics in there to figure out where we can spend some money to get some type of measurable return on it, whether that's a specific new event or a new, possibly target drive-to location," he said.
Macys said she would like to see additional marketing of community assets, such as Howelsen Hill and the Depot Art Center.
"The cultural heritage tourism is very promising, and I'd love to see more of an emphasis on that," she said. She also emphasized using social media outlets and spending money locally.
Kaminski pointed to the strong return on investment summer marketing brings. He emphasized that many local business owners already do their part to market Steamboat. He said his company, B&K Distributing, spends more than $100,000 annually with efforts to court tourists.
"We're doing everything we can to bring people into this community via summer concerts, via Triple Crown, via every partnership," he said. "And anything that you ever see any beer sponsor on, that's my company."
Fielding said that although marketing efforts needed to be aggressive and executed with substantial funding, money needs to come from a broader source than simply the city's general fund.
"There should be a special fund created, and the contributors to that fund need to be a little bit more specifically the beneficiaries of the marketing," he said.
"We live in a beautiful, beautiful place," Levin said. "But we're out here in the northwest part, and we're going to have problems in the future with expansion of airports in Vail and Aspen bringing in big jets. We need to compete against that. Again, we've just got to do a better job."
Ballots will start appearing Wednesday in mail and post office boxes across Routt County. They're due back to the Clerk and Recorder's Office at the historic Routt County Courthouse or at designated drop boxes at Hayden Town Hall, the Clark Store, Oak Creek Town Hall and Yampa Town Hall by 7 p.m. Nov. 1.
— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com