STEPHENVILLE (November 16, 2017) – Tuesday night the Stephenville City Council held a work session to hear presentations from different committees and organizations and discuss the ongoing visitor’s center issue. The discussion lasted for two hours, but no concrete decisions were made.
Councilmembers Sherry Zachary and Carla Trussell gave a presentation on their plan for a visitor’s center. They want to “advertise over the next two weeks for a tourism coordinator and have a coordinator hired by December 15” in order “to operate a tourism bureau and promote the city under the supervision of the Stephenville City Council and under the requirements of the Texas Local Government Code for the use of the Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) funds,” according to their presentation.
“I don’t see any possibility of finding someone in December,” city administrator Allen Barnes said.
They presented several options on a location, including using a portable building or the Oxford House at the Historical House Museum. Zachary and Trussell’s presentation also included ideas for increasing tourism, such as through developing a website, creating walking tours and promoting Stephenville through brochures.
Trussell also said that Flight Reach Productions was willing to shoot a free promotional video about Stephenville.
“They have been reaching out to the Chamber for seven months and gotten no response,” Trussell said. “It’s very disappointing.”
However, after the meeting, Chamber of Commerce president July Danley said in a statement that this was not the case.
“That is absolutely not true,” Danley said. “The Chamber has been working with Fisher [of Flight Reach Productions] over the last few months to collaborate on details for a video showcasing Stephenville. Our team has shared ideas for important landmarks to feature and special events to cover and helped contact business owners to get permission to fly his drone over their property. In gratitude for Fisher’s generous offer to develop a high-quality video promoting Stephenville as well as event highlight videos for downtown events, the Chamber has featured Flight Reach Productions as a sponsor for Safe Trick ‘R Treat and Holly Jolly Christmas. We have enjoyed partnering with Flight Reach and look forward to working together on many more promotional projects in the future.”
In an interview the next day, Trussell said she knew the Chamber and Flight Reach Production had spoken.
“The bottom line is there is no video on the Chamber website,” Trussell said. “I’m not saying they didn’t meet with them. I’m not saying there was no response, but there is no video.”
After their presentation, councilmember Brady Pendleton stated they had three options with their budget of $250,000. They could continue working with the Stephenville Chamber of Commerce, partner with SEDA or create a standalone option. He broke down how they could spend the money in any scenario.
“Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars is not a lot of money,” Pendleton said.
Mayor Kenny Weldon, after clarifying he was not advocating for the Chamber or any other route, stated the council needed to make a formal decision regarding a visitor’s center. This type of decision would be similar to when the council began to develop SEDA.
“I think we have failed at bringing the Chamber along with us,” Weldon said. “The Chamber needs to be a partner whether or not they run the visitor’s bureau. If you turn the spigot off, that may delay us having events a year from now. This isn’t setting up a lemonade stand. This timeline is unrealistic. I’m asking for the council to do this right.”
After more back and forth, several council members expressed the opinion that creating a tourism bureau was not necessary for now. The decision was made for Barnes and his staff to research best practices and create a job description and make a recommendation for a structure in January.
Until something is approved, in 2018 there will be no visitor’s center. Visitors’ calls are being transferred to a city employee.
“I don’t have a plan,” councilmember Doug Svien said. “I’m open for discussion. My fear is that it all falls apart. I have a concern about the transition.”