Special to The Flash Today
STEPHENVILLE (November 16, 2017)- The following is a letter from the Stephenville Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors regarding their visitor services partnership with the City of Stephenville.
Dear Chamber Members –
Our Mission: The Stephenville Chamber of Commerce, Inc. is a non-profit organization whose primary goal is to support and promote Stephenville in a unified effort to enhance growth and improve the quality of life by implementing programs in the areas of community development, economic development and tourism development.
Recently, the Stephenville City Council dissolved its 30+ year agreement for the Chamber to serve as the City’s visitor and tourism bureau. In doing so, the City revoked the allocation of approximately $240,000 per year that the Chamber used to provide tourism services in the City of Stephenville.
We realize that many of our members may be wondering how this change affects our organization. The operating budget of the Chamber of Commerce, as it applies to supporting Chamber members, is funded through Chamber memberships, fundraising and sponsorships. Just as the Chamber has since 1911, the Chamber will continue to serve as the Voice of Business and provide the many services that benefit Chamber members and the community as a whole.
Despite the lack of notice, the Chamber Board and Staff worked diligently to obtain clarification from the City Council of its change in expectations. Specifically, the following events occurred:
- August 14, 2017 – During the budget work session, the City Council decided to reallocate Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) funds to Cross Timbers Fine Arts Council and the Stephenville Historical Museum, but kept unallocated the funds historically allocated to the Chamber and used to provide the City’s Visitor Center.
- August 31, 2017 – The Chamber was invited to attend a work session with the City Council during which a presentation detailing the tourism activities was given by the Chamber of Commerce Finance Chair, Kim Wilson. A copy of the presentation is located on the Chamber’s website: http://bit.ly/2zIQnQp. In addition, the Chamber detailed its future plans, including the renovation of the newly-acquired other half of the Crow Opera House as an expanded Visitor and Event Center.
- September 12, 2017 – City staff recommended extending the Chamber’s allocation of HOT funds through 9/30/18 to allow adequate time for the establishment of a formal contract with performance measures. However, with a 5-2 vote, the City Council voted to extend the funds only through 12/31/17.
- October 26, 2017 – The Council held another work session, during which there were several different ideas presented from various Council Members regarding what a contract for tourism services should include, but did not reach a consensus.
- November 2, 2017 – During a follow-up meeting between Allen Barnes (City Administrator), Sherry Zachery (City Council Member), July Danley (President/CEO of the Chamber of the Commerce) and Greg Bruner (Chamber Board Member) to continue discussing the development of performance measures, the City Administrator proposed a timeline to recommend to the Council that the Chamber provide a drafted contract by 12/31/17 and the City finalize the contract by the end of the first quarter, continuing Chamber tourism funding through that same time period.
- November 7, 2017 – The City Administrator made the recommendation to the Council as planned. However, Sherry Zachery introduced a motion to permanently defund the Chamber as of 01/01/18. The motion was seconded by Carla Trussell. This motion was approved with a 6-2 council vote. Mark McClinton and Alan Nix voted in opposition to the motion.
We are disappointed that the City chose this action. We are very concerned that there is no specific plan for tourism for the City of Stephenville beginning January 1, 2018. While we were eager to have the Council’s input for new and fresh ideas and suggestions for improvement, the Council has decided to exercise its right as elected officials to spend the tourism dollars in a different manner and, unfortunately, ended any dialogue for continued partnership.
Your Stephenville Chamber of Commerce is open for business! As always, we will continue to help members network and promote their events on our website, social media, downtown marquee and newsletters. We will continue to advocate for your business and give you opportunities to be involved in our great community. We will continue to provide business resources such as referral services and marketing opportunities, and serve as a resource for new businesses and people simply wanting to live or stay in the City of Champions.
We remain dedicated to our mission and trust that you, our members, will continue to support your Chamber as the unified Voice of Business in Stephenville.
Your Chamber Board of Directors
Chair: Ilda Martinez, Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital
Chair-Elect: John Baxter, Baxter Chemical & Janitorial Supply
Vice Chair: Dr. Greg Hubbard, Hubbard Orthodontics
Finance Chair: Kim Pack Wilson, Fraser, Wilson & Bryan, PC
Past Chair: Steve Patterson, The Patterson Agency
Greg Bruner, Bruner Auto Family
L.V. Coffee, TexasBank Stephenville
Ed Dittfurth, Cornerstone Church
Renee Goodwin, Stephenville Independent School District
J.J. Hampton, J.J. Hampton Realty
Dr. Karen Hobbs, Ark Veterinary Hospital
Gerrit Schouten, Lone Star Ag Credit
July Danley, President/CEO, Stephenville Chamber of Commerce