Council member says bureau will close Saturday
The Carbondale Convention and Tourism Bureau will close its doors Saturday after a cut in funds from the city council, said a Carbondale City Council member.
The contract between the city of Carbondale and the CCTB made up 80 percent of the organization’s funds.
Councilwoman Corene McDaniel, the only member to vote for the contract signing May 1 at a city council meeting, said she believes the organization should have received another year to straighten out its affairs. The council voted 6-1 against renewing the bureau’s contract.
To make up for the loss of the CCTB, the council has created three new possibilities for the future, said Mayor Joel Fritzler.
While the ideas are not set in stone, they are considered a blueprint for the planning phases in replacing the CCTB.
The first idea is to make the tourism bureau a city office, the second is to subcontract for services with a certified tourism bureau and the third is issuing a request for proposal to a tourism organization.
If the city council was to make the bureau a city office it would be easier to monitor how money was being spent so issues of the past would not come up again.
With the second option in effect, the city of Carbondale would only have to wait a year before it applies for state funds because Fritzler said it would work with a state-certified organization.
The third option might take a bit longer to find an organization and Carbondale would have to wait before it could apply for state funds, but it does leave more options open in terms of the amount of organizations that could be hired.
Fritzler said even without the help of the CCTB, he believes the city has enough separate organizations to alleviate the loss of the bureau until an option is finally agreed upon and a new organization is appointed.
“There are several organizations on our website that are promoting Carbondale, you got Carbondale Main Street, Carbondale Chamber of Commerce, I mean, our website and SIU’s website along with a couple other blogs are all promoting the town so that’s not really an issue,” Fritzler said.
In the past, CCTB has come into question over the way it has spent its funds. Fritzler said the bureau claims to bring in $60,000 a year but also has $30,000 to $40,000 of debt so even if the organization would bring in revenue, a good chunk of the money would go towards paying off those debts.
“If we were to not go with the Convention and Tourism and we picked up another organization next year we basically would be out $20,000 but then again we’re kind of limited to where the money can be spent. I don’t foresee any issues,” Fritzler said.
McDaniel said the contract is crucial to the life of the organization and to deprive them of that meant turning their backs on a revenue source for Carbondale.
“I think the implication is that we don’t care and since we don’t care there are going to be people wanting to visit the city to hold conventions and reunions and they won’t be able to do that. We’re just going to have to watch and see how this affects the revenue we receive from the hotel-motel tax,” McDaniel said.
Councilman Chris Wissman said the city council has had its fair share of doubts of whether the CCTB was doing its job and although the contract was not signed, the three new options should help Carbondale overcome the loss of the organization.
“The tourism bureau seems a little more interested in playing games with the city and seeing what it can get away with rather than doing a good job of promoting tourism,” Wissman said.
Wissman said the options will be refined as time goes on, but the council will take it’s time to find a replacement.
“We’re not in the greatest hurry because we don’t want to just jump in bed with the next tourism bureau without getting an idea of what we can do with them and whether or not they’re a good fit for the city,” Wissman said.
Fritzler said the council will have an idea of what to do about the loss of the CCTB soon, but the city could not afford to do business with the organization anymore.
“The CCTB wasn’t able to get along with other organizations in town such as Carbondale Main Street or Carbondale Community Arts or Chamber of Commerce … you want a bureau like that to take the lead on working with the different organizations to better promote Carbondale and provide a good picture and a working relationship,” Fritzler said.
McDaniel said it was not the CCTB that couldn’t get along though, it was personal feelings shared by her colleagues.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been so disappointed in the 11 years that I have been on the council, I really don’t. We as council people ought to be able to remove those personal feelings and grudges and say ‘what is best for the city of Carbondale and how can we make this better’,” Mcdaniel said.
The three options can take anywhere from one-to-three years to get Carbondale back to having some sort of tourism bureau with funds from the government.