Tourism issues up in the air: Buffalo City Tourism contract with city delayed by legal questionsCity and tourism leaders found little common ground during a joint meeting Thursday. The Buffalo City Tourism Foundation Board, members of the Jamestown City Council and representatives of the Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. met to review the tourism report for 2012 and discuss the future of tourism in Jamestown.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
By Keith Norman
The Jamestown Sun
City and tourism leaders found little common ground during a joint meeting Thursday.
The Buffalo City Tourism Foundation Board, members of the Jamestown City Council and representatives of the Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. met to review the tourism report for 2012 and discuss the future of tourism in Jamestown.
The meeting was a requirement of the contract between BCTF and Jamestown. That contract ends on Dec. 31, and the city is still researching the legality of the BCTF board structure specified in previous contracts. If the contract is not renewed the organization, which promotes tourism and provides grants for tourism related sites in Jamestown, may not have the authority to operate in 2013.
Mayor Katie Andersen raised the question of the board structure at the BCTF Executive Board meeting Oct. 19. The issue is still being researched by Ken Dalsted, city attorney, and a definitive answer on the legality of the BCTF board has not been issued.
“I’m personally upset in how this has been handled,” said Pam Philips, member of the BCTF board. “This has besmirched the reputation of this board. I don’t want to see a well-run and well-documented program go away.”
Andersen defended her actions in bringing the problem to the board’s attention as soon as she learned of it.
“The only thing that is illegal is the way the City Council created this organization,” she said. “It has nothing to do with your organization doing anything illegal.”
Andersen also said she anticipates BCTF continuing to operate.
“I can’t speak for the full council but, I believe our intention is to renew the contract even if we have to do it with a different board structure,” she said. “It would have a similar funding structure to accomplish similar functions.”
She could not answer questions regarding how the board might be structured.
“I don’t have answers,” she said. “That is why we’re having the city attorney look into this.”
Andersen was also questioned as to why the issue wasn’t raised until near the end of the existing contract.
“We’ve been at this since January,” said Dave Smette, BCTF president. “This is late in the game to bring up a legality.”
One possible solution, raised by Nina Sneider, BCTF director, was for responsibility for making grants and administering funds for tourism sites to revert back to the city and JSDC. Those organizations held those responsibilities prior to the forming of the BCTF in 2003. BCTF would continue to provide advertising and promotional services for the community.
“Buffalo City Tourism originated by City Hall and the idea was the city didn’t have to administrate tourism functions,” said Dan Buchanan, city councilman.
Gary Riffe, JSDC representative, said he didn’t believe that the JSDC wanted back into the tourism business.
“We don’t want your job,” Riffe said. “You do too good a job.”
The discussion of the contract followed a presentation by Smette and Sneider on the 2012 tourism numbers. Visitation was up at all sites in Jamestown.
“It was a beautiful spring and summer,” Sneider said. “Then gas went up in August and cooler weather came in and we saw the impact.”
Overall, Sneider estimated tourism provided a $14.5 million impact to Jamestown. Costs of the various programs and grants amounted to $439,000, netting a return of $33 for each tax dollar expended.
Sneider said the visitor numbers showed 134,000 visitors to the Frontier Village and National Buffalo Museum area so far this year. This was up 4 percent from the 2011 total.
“I think some of it is the oil industry out west,” she said. “But some of it is people have discovered us. I’ve never seen so many New York visitors and that has nothing to do with oil.”
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org