City Council to decide on CCTB funding

The future of the Carbondale Convention and Tourism Bureau could be greatly affected at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

The Council will vote on authorizing City Manager Kevin Baity to execute a contract with the CCTB, among other organizations.

According to the authorization resolution, the contract would provide $267,500, which is a $50,000 cut from last year.

The new contract comes amidst recent controversy concerning the CCTB and its executive director, Debbie Moore.

Mayor Joel Fritzler proposed removing $120,000 from the organization’s budget in February and redistributing the money to other organizations. That amount was later reduced to $50,000.

Councilwoman Jane Adams has emerged as a vocal critic of the organization and its practices. She released two extensive emails that outlined her critique of the organization and what she saw as its lack of verifiable results.

She said she has had more input from the public on this issue than any other she’s dealt with since she joined the Council. That input has been overwhelmingly critical of the CCTB, she said.

Adams said she hopes a contract can be reached that precisely lays out the city’s requirements in a way that the bureau would have to perform. However, she said she is becoming less confident that such a contract can be reached.

She said the bureau’s board expansion March 26 diluted the power of city-appointed members and appeared to indicate the organization was not taking the city seriously.

“It gave me pause,” she said.

Councilman Chris Wissmann said the move was like a slap in the face and seems like a taunt to the city to cut off funding.

He said the $267,500 should be reduced, though he would not specify by how much.

He said the city should not be overcautious in how it deals with the CCTB, as with no results from the organization, he said the city has nothing to lose.

“A half-measure would result in us doing less with less,” he said.

Councilman Don Monty said he would wait to see the final contract before he would know how he would vote.

He said the amount of money is fine to spend on tourism, but whether it’s the CCTB or some other organization that receives it could change.

Monty said while the board’s expansion was like a finger in the eye, he has to look beyond that action and focus on the interests of the community.

Jill Fager, owner of Cabin on the Hill, said Carbondale could be better served by another organization, and she would like to see the city completely sever its ties with the CCTB.

She’s had a negative experience with the organization, she said, and when she asked Moore how it was spending its money, Moore blew her off.

She said she’s hopeful the city will be decisive Tuesday.

Jim Zimmerman, founder and part-owner of Escape Locally, said Moore was more combative than collaborative when his business tried to work with her.

He said Escape Locally promotes area tourism and offers packages like a travel agency does, and its activities are complimentary to those of a tourism bureau.

Around 2008, when Escape Locally was still in planning stages, Zimmerman said he approached Moore with the idea of his company doing golfing packages. He said she directly told him not to, as it was her turf, and threatened him should the company decide to do it anyway.

He would not specify what the threat consisted of, though he said since Escape Locally went ahead and offered golfing packages, he has heard nothing directly from Moore.

Moore declined comment on the contract or allegations made against the organization Monday and referred questions to CCTB board members. Board President Trace Brown was not able to be reached for comment Monday.

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