By Nicole Barde

You can find the agenda HERE.

First up was public comment and there was a lot of it!

First some background:

A letter from the Ferrari Club HERE was sent to all of the merchants in VC to ask that they lobby the VCTC and County Manager Pat Whitten to reverse the decision to cancel this year’s event. The letter listed many reasons for keeping the Hill Climb which is one of two left in the United States, the other being Pikes Peak. It has been an annual event in VC for 48 years.

The reason for the event’s cancellation was given as a “safety concern” by VCTC Executive Director Deny Dotson at both the VCTC and Commissioners meetings. Sam Toll of the Storey Teller got involved after seeing the letter sent to the merchants and walked around a petition asking that the event be reinstated. He collected about 30 merchant signatures and over 10 citizen signatures.

Canvas Cafe owners Alexia Sober and Richard Oates spread the word thru Facebook.

A pre-meeting was held at the Canvas the morning of the VCTC meeting to discuss the issues with the event’s cancellation and numerous other issues connected with the VCTC and other events arose and were also discussed.

There was a great deal of back and forth during the meeting.

During Public Comment

Merchant Judy Cohen, Silver Stope, opened the session by asking that the Board listen to what the merchants have to say. That the reason that she and many of the other merchants don’t come to the meetings is because they don’t feel as if the Board really listens or even cares about what the merchants have to say.

Sam Toll, Editor of The Storey Teller Online, stated that he had spoken to the Ferrari organizers as well as with the Fire, Sheriffs and Highway Patrol. He indicated that there was some conflicting information on what he was first told about the safety issues. The Highway Patrol indicated that it was a well run event from their perspective and posed no greater a concern than the Grand Prix or other motorcycle events. The Fire Chief stated that it put his first responders at risk due to an improperly handled accident incident.

Sam also said that the Ferrari Club provides an economic impact to the town when its 65-70 members stay, eat and play in town. They estimate that they drop at least $120k in town plus a Pipers banquet at $7k . Additionally, one of the club members was so taken by the VC culture that he donated a $35k school bus to the district. The Club pays for its own security as well as paying fees to the Fire Department and the Sheriffs Office.

Alexia Sober, Canvas Cafe owner, spoke up to say that the merchants were there as a unified voice to protest the event’s cancellation. They felt that the cancellation of the event was taking money away from them at a time when they are already struggling to compete with some of the vendors brought in for other events. Her example was bringing in of food trucks during events which can sell food at very cheap prices directly competes with the few restaurants in the town. That is also taking money away from them. She also noted that the event was canceled without asking the merchants about the impact.

Many people had comments and the below is a summary of the issues that were brought up:

-Meeting start time and locations

-Lack of effective communication with the merchants about things that affect them

-A request that the merchants have a voice on event planning and in vendor selection at events so that there is no direct competition

-A request to add events not take them away..the Americana Music Festival and The Steam Punk events are examples of events that the merchants would like to see return

-external ATM machines take business out of the merchant’s establishments…they would rather have signage sending people to the existing ATMs

-reinstate the Camel parade

Deny Dotson, VCTC Executive Director, responded by saying that it was County Manager Pat Whitten’s decision to cancel the event. That this was the first event that he denied and that there had been numerous issues with the Club dating back to 2011. He handed out a packet with a letter from Pat Whitten HERE as well as emails going back many years about these issues. He asked the merchants to come see him if and when they have concerns.

He noted that he does walk the town and visit with the merchants to get inputs as well as sending out emails to the merchants but that the merchants don’t respond or unsubscribe to those emails.

Additionally, Deny said that the VCTC Board does do planning sessions at the end of the year and that there are merchants invited to those meetings.

SIDENOTE- most of the merchants at this meeting stated that he had never been to their stores to talk to them.

Board Member and County Commissioner Lance Gilman stated that in 4 years of sitting on this board that he had never seen this many people attend a VCTC meeting and that this was the first time the Board received this much input….ever. That it has been operating in a vacuum thru lack of merchant participation. He noted that in the past there was a Merchants Association which would participate in these meetings but that it has not been present.

Lance said that the meeting time was not an issue for them and that they would drill down into the Hill Climb issue. He said “ we need to see you here” on an ongoing basis.

Sam Toll closed the session by thanking the Board for their time and asked again that they reconsider the decision.

SIDENOTE- Needless to say the merchants were angry and it wasn’t just about the Hill Climb. They feel disrespected by the VCTC for how they were treated in the past ….” shut up and sit down”….” we’re required to hear the question not answer it” and because they believe that Deny in particular doesn’t care to get their inputs or use them. They believe that Liquid Blue is their direct competitor and that they are there to serve Deny and not them.

The Hill Climb was just the last straw for them and they are set to get it back. I suggested to Deny after the meeting that there must be some condition under which the decision could be reversed. That this is bad optics given the magnitude of the merchant response and the intensity of the pent up resentment. The VCTC can’t be at odds with the merchants….it just isn’t good for the town!

On to the rest of the meeting.

The first agenda item was a summary of the sign Ordinance by Cathy Canfield in Planning. They will get finalized soon.

Next up was the Marketing Update which you can see HERE. One of the comments was about the tours coming in “unannounced” by VCTC. Katie Demuth responded that the tour operators don’t always tell the VCTC that they are coming but that when she knows she informs the merchants. The tours typically come in early in the morning and since the merchants don’t know…nothing is open!

Next was the Financial Update which has the Tourism Tax revenues better than last year by about $85k and over the projected revenues for the budget by $59k. All in all good news….people are spending money!

The Transient Lodging Tax shows that we may be short on revenues by $30k. The motel properties at TRIC have taken longer than expected to open and this affects the revenues.

The current Fiscal 2017-2018 budget which ends on June 30thlooks to be unclear as to what will happen. Revenues seem to be on track once the state grant monies are accounted for and CAP sales are tallied but expenses are not. Pipers coming into the VCTC budget midway thru the year has thrown it off and that still needs to settle out. At this point, the budget is about $181k to the good but more expenses will hit.

Next years approved 2018-2019 Budget is a balanced budget to the extent that the revenues exceed expenses by about $18k. It is a $1.452 million dollar budget.

The biggest revenue drivers are CAP ( Comstock Adventure Pass) sales at $210k, Room Tax at $275k and Tourism Tax at $340k. Altho special events bring in $425 in revenues they also cost $471k in expenses a $46k loss making them an overall loss for VCTC but hopefully a solid revenue driver for the town. Deny likes to say it takes money to make money.

Looking at the expense side, salaries and benefits are at $422k and Marketing and professional services ( RAD and Liquid Blue) is at $50k for RAD and $27k for LB for a total of $87.7k. VCTC also pays $73k for various forms of advertising.

The Balance Sheet looks to be ok with the exception of a misclassification of the gin inventory ( typo) and the VCTC General Fund is projected to go UP by about $180k for an ending on hand balance of $485k.

Next up was the events summary and budget approvals by Liquid Blue.

The Oyster Fest was impacted by the snow…..despite having the most cooks ever, larger prize money and adding quite a few really good features the crowd size was down. This event sold the most number of pre-sale tickets ever for this event. Both revenues and Expenses were lower than budget but it was still a mall net gain. Mother nature just didn’t co-operate….hey…its Nevada…..

The Chili Cookoff was a success, as always, great weather , great crowds. The downside is that this is one of those events that competes with the restaurant owners in that there were many food trucks there.

Taste of the Comstock was affected by the gale force winds…but hey ….this is Nevada. The main issue with this event this year is that the visitors complained that there weren’t enough food stations…not much to taste.

There was a brief update on the Rodeo and the budget passed. This year’s budget has a projected loss of $15,745 as compared to a loss of $33,648 last year. At least the losses are declining……

The Camel Races budget was also approved with a projected net gain for VCTC of $8,381 which is flat to the previous years.

The 4thof July fundraising is falling short by about $10,000. Almost the entire budget goes to the purchase of the fireworks so if we can’t get the numbers up we’ll fall short of the spectacle that we’ve all come to expect.

The Pipers and V & T rail updates were pretty routine….both entities are doing well under new management and that is good news.

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