BY Nicole Barde

This month’s meeting was at the VC Conference Center and there were several other “public” members there besides me including about 4 merchants. Good turnout!  The link to the entire meeting packet can be found HERE and the audio HERE.

The meeting was kicked off by welcoming Corrado De Gasperis as a new board member replacing Scott Jolcover. He is the CEO of CMI and represents the hotel segment of V.C. although I don’t know why since he doesn’t manage one….but OK.

First up on the agenda was Kathy Canfield from the Planning Department to discuss the never ending reviewing of the Sign Ordinance. This topic brought out at least two merchants who wanted to discuss it.

Kathy said that the Planning Department wanted to make the Ordinance easier to use by the merchants, and she noted that the sign permit fees have already been eliminated. After a bit of discussion a merchant got up to ask why the Ordinance wasn’t being enforced equally and mentioned the Mercantile as an example of multiple violations. Kathy knew about the issue there and really didn’t answer the question as to why they got a pass on the violations. The merchant went on to say that signage is key to getting people into your store. Corrado mentioned that signs help prosperity and that needs to be taken into account when reviewing the ordinance and that the Ordinance needs to be fair and help grow business in the town.

SIDENOTE: From what I’ve been told the Mercantile sued the county and won. I don’t know on what basis.  The County is always gun shy with lawsuits real or imagined so I guess they will allow the Mercantile to continue to violate the Ordinance.

But I digress………….

After a bit of discussion is was agreed that the Ordinance needs to get simpler, and that the enforcement and consequences also need to be clear. Additionally the Ordinance needs to comply with public safety concerns as well as the Historic District requirements as to look and feel.

Next up was the Transient Lodging Tax for November 2017 which is essentially flat to November 2016 and tracking with the budget .  The issue here is that the much anticipated room tax revenues out of TRI haven’t materialized due to some lag time in new construction and due to the need for worker housing the existing properties are converting to extended stay. We get no “room tax” from extended stay so VCTC Executive Director Deny Dotson and County Comptroller Hugh Gallagher are working on getting an Ordinance to get revenue from the extended stay properties. This will be a long process since they need to do a business impact study and have discussions with those properties to let them know what the county is thinking about doing. Without the expected revenues from these now “extended stay” properties the VCTC budget may come in short on revenues for the year.

Next up was the ¼ cent Tourism tax. It’s $11,329 over October 2016 for this point in time and $32,000 over the budget projection for October 2017. So far so good. Let’s see what November and December shows.

Next up was the Trial Balance Sheet and the FY 2016-17 Audit.  Don’t bother to look at them they are wrong. Deny said that the Balance Sheet had incorrect numbers and Corrado found a significant math error on the Audit.  Deny will get the corrected numbers for the February meeting.

Next up was Board approval for commissioning the appraisal of the Fairgrounds for purchase by the County.

The next agenda item was the status of Pipers Opera House. VCTC has taken over the day to day operation and marketing of the venue. They have completed a separate budget and fund for it and will go before the County Commissioners to get a budget augmentation for the new Pipers budget. They will post a requisition for a full-time special events coordinator and a temporary intermittent maintenance person. These positions are the same positions that currently exist at Pipers but are being posted for all interested people to apply, including the incumbents.

Next up was RAD strategies presentation of the year in review. My eyes usually glaze over during the standard presentations but this was an excellent presentation and it shows that a lot of progress has been made in the areas that they focus on. You can read it HERE.

There was a particularly interesting item mentioned and that’s the placement of “beacons” all over the town. These beacons will link to the mobile app on people’s phones as they walk by a store, venue or attraction and send a notification. It will then transmit a recorded summary of the location and potentially any other info such as deals and sales. There are 35 locations already recorded. This will seamlessly bridge the 19th and 21st Centuries!

One thing of note is that the VCTC is negotiating to get Antiques Roadshow to come to VC in June 2018. It’ll be on C Street and although it should bring in a lot of people for that day it’ll expose the town to MILLIONS on TV! How cool is that?

If you haven’t seen the VC promotional video you can see it here.   I think it’s a great piece showing the uniqueness, fun, and action of the town.

There were a couple of merchants in the room who expressed their satisfaction with the VCTC and the events saying the they would have had to close were it not for the people coming into town for the events.

Next up was the special events report. The first thing to be reviewed was the compilation of the VC Events 2014-2017. Before the discussion even happened Deny warned us that these events were an INVESTMENT…….a marketing INVESTMENT. I think he said that because the events are operating at a LOSS. You can review the summary HERE.

In summary the total net event revenues for the four year period was $201, 414. After expenses were deducted the VCTC net for the four years was NEGATIVE $43,711 with each year showing a higher loss. Deny noted in the summary that without the NEGATIVE $ 72,718 of the Rodeo that VCTC would have netted a positive $29,006.

With that logic…I’d weigh 120 pounds if it weren’t for the ugly fat surrounding my body. But I digress……

Then, the total take home pay/ commission for Liquid Blue over the four years for putting on and managing the events was $ 245,126. They make 85% commission on the net after expenses. They are also on a $2000 +/-  month retainer.

First let me say that I think that Liquid Blue does a good job of planning and putting on these events. They do a good job of budgeting, tracking the expenses, thinking thru the logistics and executing. Additionally they do a good job of doing a post mortem on the events to see what worked and didn’t work and always come up with improvements for the next event. All of this is what I expect from a good business. I do not begrudge them making a profit from their work. If they do good work they should benefit from all of that effort.

What I do have a problem with is the 85% commission rate, how was that set? They make $245k and VCTC is in the hole $43k. There are many ways to construct a commission structure. One way might be that the commission is broken up into two parts. The immediate commission on the event….a lower percentage and then at the end of the year a commission on the total net. VCTC needs to mitigate their losses and Liquid Blue needs to share in the overall pain or gain of the entire year.

With Deny’s attitude that the cost/loss of the Events is an investment and at this rate of loss, in addition to the other years of loss, the VCTC general fund will be at zero in a couple of years and then eat into the County’s general fund. This means that the Tourism Tax and room tax can’t support VCTC in paying for V.C. events and the rest of the county’s tax payers will have to foot the bill. I think that VCTC needs to live within its means, thru its own revenue sources and if the revenues aren’t enough then CUT EXPENSES….but that’s just me.

All of the budgets for upcoming events were approved.


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