Chamber and Town closer to signing service agreement

BOLT payers could get better visibility in Visitor Center

The final details have yet to be worked out but the Crested Butte Town Council gave a vote of confidence Monday night that a service agreement would be worked out between the town and the chamber of commerce.



During a total of about two hours of discussion at the April 2 meeting, council members expressed many concerns and wanted some substantial changes to past practices but agreed that the chamber would be their agent to use the BOLT (Business Occupational Licensing Tax) to run the Visitor Center and coordinate events, at least for this year.
“A cultural shift has happened with the chamber,” new board member Andrea Greene told the council. “Let’s look to the future. We’ve all been frustrated with the past. There are five new board members and a new executive director is ready to be hired.
“We are looking for a commitment that the council wants the chamber to run the Visitor Center,” she continued, “and that we will end up with a signed service agreement.”
The council members, some tepidly, raised their hands in support of that concept but made it clear they wanted to keep a much closer eye on the chamber’s rebuilding project.
The discussion began with a work session in which staff concerns over the proposed service agreement were hashed out. While Crested Butte passes through about $42,000 a year in BOLT to run the Visitor Center and Mt. Crested Butte’s total BOLT is about $71,000, those funds don’t cover the entire operating costs of the centers. Still, the Crested Butte council wanted to make sure the Four-way Stop Visitor Center would be open seven days a week.
The council members voiced serious concerns with previous executive director Richard Bond and his communication with the town. Mayor Aaron Huckstep asked the current chamber board members to make sure they were in the loop with council-chamber discussions.
Huckstep also insisted on keeping a close eye on the chamber’s financial situation. He initially wanted a guarantee that the chamber would keep a month’s operating expenses in the bank. But given the organization’s financial reality, board member Ann Johnston didn’t think that was practical. Huckstep said he then wanted the town to be able to keep an eye on the chamber’s bank balance.
“We want to make sure your financials are becoming stable or else we would have to go to Plan B,” he said. “And that would mean we would have to keep the Visitor Center open and the events going on our own. We don’t want to be surprised with a new financial dilemma.”
“I think we need to be able to look for red flags that indicate a dangerous trend,” agreed councilperson Glenn Michel.
In that regard, the council expressed some doubt at the ability of the chamber to pay down its line of credit with consistency. That credit line stands at about $50,000 and the bank has given the board a maturity date of March 2013. The idea is that the chamber can pay off the debt at that time and immediately turn around and begin using the line of credit as necessary. The chamber board members said they wanted to make sure they paid off that line of credit over the next five years and didn’t want to walk away from the debt obligation.
Councilperson Jim Schmidt returned to an issue he’s voiced numerous times. “Given that the BOLT from the town is used to run the Visitor Center, I think all the town’s business should have equal representation in the Visitor Center,” he said. “Preference shouldn’t be given to just chamber members.”
“We can do a better job of that,” agreed Greene.
“Our concern is that if we allow all BOLT members to have the same access there, why would people join the chamber?” said chamber board member Lisa Lenander. “Having your brochure in the Visitor Center is a big chamber benefit.”
But the majority of the town council felt adamant that all BOLT-paying businesses should have access to a presence in the Visitor Center. How that access ultimately is accomplished still has to be worked out. Town Finance Director Lois Rozman suggested making a book listing available to tourists showing every business in town.
“You may have to help us build smaller shelves to fit everyone’s collateral in there,” quipped Greene, pointing out there are hundreds more BOLT-paying businesses than current chamber members.
Michel pointed out that the council didn’t have to pass the BOLT on to the chamber. The law doesn’t specify who gets that money.
“We’ve chosen the chamber to manage that facility,” said Councilperson John Wirsing.
The Town Council said they’d like their representative to the chamber board to have a vote. Greene said she’d look into the bylaws to see if that was allowed.
Huckstep said the service agreement needed to tie into a lease between the town and the chamber. He then said he had more than a dozen things in the proposed agreement that needed to be cleaned up.
It was agreed that the staff would sit down outside a council meeting and smooth out the proposed agreement document. The council will then look at it for approval at the April 16 meeting. “There could likely be some substantive changes that come back to you but I don’t see any deal breakers,” Huckstep told the chamber reps.
The expectation is that the council will vote on the service agreement at the April 16 meeting.

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