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March 15, 2012 Door County Tourism Zone Meeting Minutes
DOOR COUNTY TOURISM ZONE
COMMISSION and EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEETING
Minutes of March 15, 2012, 9:06 a.m.
Egg Harbor Town Hall, 5242 Cty I
Starr moved and Weddig seconded to approve the agenda as submitted. All ayes.
Weddig moved and Holtz seconded to approve the February 16 minutes as amended. All ayes.
Tice moved and LeClair seconded to accept Kathy Kirkland’s resignation. All ayes.
Weddig moved and Stayton seconded to accept the reports from Kerber Rose. All ayes.
Kufrin moved and Tice seconded to convene into Closed Session to Consider motion for Closed Session pursuant to Wisconsin State Statutes, Section 19.85(1)(a)(f) or (g) to consider enforcement action against certain businesses regarding the room tax permitting, late payments and reporting and State Statutes §19.85(1)(e): deliberating or negotiating the purchasing of public properties, the investing of public funds, or conducting other specified public business, whenever competitive or bargaining reasons require a closed session to discuss the Entity Agreement negotiations and DCVB audit issues. All ayes by roll call.
In Open Session, Zacek moved and Tice seconded that Kirkland should send out letters as discussed in Closed Session. All ayes.
Stayton moved and Zacek seconded to adjourn. All ayes.
Committee Members Present by Roll Call: Bob Kufrin, Mary Boston, Dave Holtz, Diane Jacobson (9:12), Emily Ahlswede, Bill Weddig, Elizabeth LeClair, Frank Forkert (9:12), Tom Olsen, Chuck Tice, Nora Zacek (9:09), Bob Starr, Dennis Statz, Carol Stayton (9:20)
Excused: Richard Briggs, Deb Jeanquart, Mike Johnson, Jeff Larson, Bryan Nelson
Absent: Brad Massey, Dick Skare, Josh Van Lieshout,
Also in Attendance: Jack Moneypenny, Jon Jarosh & Mary Denis/DCVB; Kathy Kirkland/Administrative Assistant
Call to Order
Chair Bob Kufrin called the meeting to order at a.m. Executive Committee at 9:06 a.m.
Approval of the Agenda
Starr moved and Weddig seconded to approve the agenda as submitted. All ayes.
Approval of the February 16 Minutes
Tice pointed to pg. 2, li 22: delete “him” and pg. 4, li 5, take out “was.” Weddig moved and Holtz seconded to approve the February 16 minutes as amended. All ayes.
Report from Kathy Kirkland
Kirkland noted that the prior month has been slow. Unpaid tax and penalties are up slightly from February, much of it is tax itself from a few large lodgings that continue paying late and the two Circuit Court cases. The Survey Monkey results about why people were no longer renting was scant, but the final question showed that permit holders had no idea how municipalities were using room tax money; Kirkland e-mailed the clerks with those results and suggested they talk about the use online or in newsletters. Jess Bongle, clerk from the Village of Egg Harbor, said someone has shown interest in filling the empty commissioner slot but it hasn’t been finalized. She’ll keep us informed. Kirkland thanked the commissioners for working so well with her and The Zone office; this is her final meeting and her final day with The Zone is March 30.
Report by the Door County Visitor Bureau on Marketing Efforts and Quarterly Report
Moneypenny invited everyone to the Nat’l Travel and Tourism Conference May 5-13, celebrated nationwide. The DCVB Breakfast is on Tuesday May 8 at Stone Harbor/Sturgeon Bay; the speaker will be Secretary Stephanie Klett. Jarosh is working with the State to arrange a few activities around the county. Senator Lasee is helping set it up. Moneypenny mentioned bill SB462 about second-home and private-home usage; the proposed bill states that private homes don’t have to have health inspection, don’t have to collect room tax, and no community could override it. Moneypenny talked to Lasee; it has been pulled off the table. Moneypenny stressed that they should have to have the inspection and pay room tax; Lasee saw it as helping people upside down on their mortgages by renting. It won’t go to floor this session. The Real Estate Association is behind it and pushing strongly. Starr was unaware of this. Moneypenny felt the most important things were pulled out; it does still give the ability to turn neighborhoods into transient rentals. Kufrin said that affects only the City of Sturgeon Bay; most municipalities do set limits (e.g., 16 weeks a year) for rental. Starr said the bill basically would tell communities how they could zone their districts; he is against it. The DCVB hasn’t taken a stand on it officially.
Moneypenny said the Southern Door Business Association began on March 2 and has a 501(c)(6) designation, there are 15 members and about 50 more interested. They have a kiosk outside the Stevenson mini-mart. They’re coming together in a tourism effort.
Moneypenny met with the Baileys Harbor Business Association, which are all volunteers. The association wants to work with the DCVB on a list of projects that they’re unable to do on their own; they’ll pay the DCVB. Moneypenny stated that the Governor’s Conference was good, and about 45 people from Door County were represented. AFT got the Governor’s Award for Art & Culture. The DCVB is working on the impact of high gas prices that may affect travel. Normally, prices drop after fall; they didn’t this past year. Gas prices could affect the county. The DCVB will remind people of Door County’s proximity (“a tank away”). He has worked with the DCVB Board on where they can pull money for the extra push. The TV spots in Fox Valley and Milwaukee will take the spin that Door County is “closer than you think.”
About the sheriff’s investigation: The sheriff’s department has everything Moneypenny has, and he knows it won’t find anything wrong. Statz said it sounds like a computer glitz. Moneypenny agreed. The QuickBooks program has code for each line of data, if there’s corruption, some of the code disintegrates, so when a report scans those areas, it skips over and some transactions don’t show up. Moneypenny has looked at all checks and income, and there’s not one cent missing. The sheriff has everything to reconstruct the cash flow. Moneypenny told the sheriff’s department that they have to make a public statement about its findings. In constructing media comments, Moneypenny made it clear that The Zone cleared the DCVB; people thought the complaint to the sheriff came from The Zone. Moneypenny knows who filed the complaint but can’t discuss it. Kufrin said Nelson and he spoke to the Peninsula Pulse and told Myles that the Executive Committee conducted an investigation with The Zone’s accountants, and the zone had no reason to believe there was wrongdoing. No one else on the Commission had heard from the sheriff or other inquiries; Starr was concerned about the process if nobody contacted Zone members asking to review the materials or our conclusions. Moneypenny noted that their investigation isn’t over yet. They have his paperwork so far and it might go further.
Denis said they are doing the gas price promotions. They did a winter photo shoot. There will be an insert in the Peninsula Pulse on May 11 about the National Tourism Week. The State numbers will be released the week before; the research calculation methods have changed from the State. Kufrin asked if the insert would be put it on the website; Denis said they could do that. Kufrin used it in grant applications last year. Co-op ads are going well. There’s a Midwest Living insert in May, and they’re looking at Time Warner 30 sec spots in Milwaukee, 15 seconds in Fox Valley. Kufrin asked how he could add names to the newsletter mailing list from the DCVB. Denis said eBrains adds to the list; Moneypenny said the new names have to “opt out.” Denis said the first message will say that it’s “opt in.” Kufrin asked if they’ve gotten hotels and business customer e-mail lists. Denis said four times a year, their lists go to Bay Lake and they send out a first-touch postcard. Then they separate the list and send it out on behalf of lodging properties, “been a customer in the past, etc.” There’s a third-party intervention.
On the statistics, the website has dropped a little month over month but YTD is up 3%. The bounce rate is good. “Where to Stay” is top on Top 10. Mobile traffic is generating a great portion of website, with iPads the highest. The pay-per-click program is starting. E-marketing stats are for the newsletter. Facebook is one of the top referral sites back to website; people are talking to each other. Facebook now has more than 6,000 followers.
They spent little on advertising in February; now gearing up for March/April. Kufrin asked if the DCVB, specifically on social media, knows how it’s doing in relation to similar organizations. Denis said it depends on when the entity jumped into it; the DCVB wasn’t an early adopter of Facebook. Not quite, there compared to some who’ve been in it longer. The State asked how they decide who to link; Denis said its members and other Door County Facebook pages. They do monitor all conversations on other pages.
Group sales take a demanding amount of time; weddings are off the charts (33 called in Feb). They had 276 touches with the group market in February and did two trade shows. Kufrin asked if they have an internal wedding planner. It’s Michelle Rasmussen, who’s on maternity leave but working from home.
Jarosh said that in January and February, there were PR ebbs and flows. They had a wonderful press trip February 23-26; took three hikes, went ice fishing. Four more trips are scheduled through Geiger: May/June/Sept/Oct. ROI is still showing extremely solid value. On April 11, Geiger is offering a seminar opportunity on travel public relations; open to any members and The Zone, 9 a.m. at the Bertschinger Center for 2-2 ½ hours with individual appointments in the afternoon. Stayton mentioned the October press trip with Geiger; she’d rather they don’t bring journalists when everything is closed. Jarosh said it’s earlier this year, October 8-12, the week between Pumpkin Patch and Fall Fest. He does want to get journalists on Washington Island.
Kufrin got the DCVB e-mail asking about suggestions for the Visitor Guide; what’s the deadline? Moneypenny said the first production meeting looks at all suggestions in May/June. Moneypenny mentioned the State numbers for economic impact, Tourism Economics, is working off tax collections. He’ll furnish all numbers under their new methodology when he gets them. It’s no longer Davidson-Peterson. Kufrin asked if historical numbers in detail going back to 2009 and 2010. Moneypenny said he does, Kirkland has been forwarding the monthly breakdowns; at this point, he’s not sure what Tourism Economics is asking for. The numbers will be released April 26.
Moneypenny noted that today is Mary Denis’s last day as an employee; she’ll have a contractor position for three months as they find someone to replace her. He thanked her for everything she has done for DCVB.
Discussion of Current Comparable Occupancy Numbers for 2012
Kufrin said it’s a bad month to discuss since it’s the slowest of the year. He’ll do another graphic comparison in a couple of months. Weddig felt the -5.9% from 2011 is a reflection of no snow. There were 1,000 fewer available units.
Discussion on the Proposed Room Tax legislation
Kufrin said the Executive Committee had meetings in January and February. Kufrin spoke to Rep. Dean Kaufert and the Assembly’s Tourism Committee at Legislative Days over the past year. Bies, who sponsored the proposed bill, never checked with anyone on the Commission or DCVB before putting forth the legislation; Bies indicated there’d be a hearing on it. At that point, Kufrin drafted a lengthy letter, which the Executive Committee reviewed it, two large notebooks of materials to leave with Senator Olson and Kaufert. Skare, Nelson, and Kufrin went to Madison a couple of weeks ago to testify at that hearing. Kufrin said the WI Hotel and Lodging Association feels threatened by negative comments from the Commission. The Tourism Zone is unique because the DCVB represents all communities in a county. Most others (260 or so) run their tourism marketing quite differently. Six or seven communities testified against the bill, mostly on the financial impact (they had adopted room tax prior to the legislation to split the tax and were keeping more than 70%); it would threaten their way of working. Kufrin said The Zone also objects to anyone being able to sue in Circuit Court and receiving legal fees without providing any notice; it seems extreme that anyone could file without any mediation or notice.
Ultimately, the hearing didn’t go well for the Lodging Association as expected; the municipal witnesses created concern. There is a list of “violators” according to the State, but they wouldn’t name them or provide specifics. Weddig said that Fred Anderson’s list at the Executive Committee was extensive and included large municipalities. The upshot: Bies called Kufrin last week and said, as far as he was concerned, the legislation is dead. However, Kufrin anticipates it might come back at the June conference; he and Holtz felt they should get together with Trisha Pugal to see if they can have a municipality discussion and find some common ground to tailor the legislation without an adverse impact.
Kufrin’s letter was focused only on negative impacts to The Zone; the municipality issues don’t affect The Zone and our rules. Tice and others got Pugal’s e-mail, which stated they’d exhausted every effort to get the legislation passed but they will be back. She said The Zone had many misunderstandings. Nowhere did the e-mail correct the “misinformation.” Kufrin talked to the Whitewater administrator, which supports a Chamber of Commerce differently from local tourism entity; if they give money to a Chamber, is that the same? It could be disputed; there’s no effective accounting for how it’s being spent. Brookfield doesn’t give any money for tourism; just economic development (18% says Moneypenny), and their plan was adopted prior to 1994. Moneypenny said the marketing dollars don’t reach anywhere near 70%. Starr asked if there are guidelines in State law; Kufrin said yes, depending on when the municipality approved room tax. Any legislation would also cover the DCTZC unless we somehow are grandfathered in. Kufrin said the bill would punish all, not just the violators. There’s no part of the bill that allows for administrative costs, such as The Zone’s. Starr asked if Bies expects the bill to come back with his name as sponsor. Kufrin said yes, and Bies’ comment was, “I need to let the administrators to get their act together.” Starr asked if the League of Municipalities testified. Kufrin said his group was there at 10 am and left at 1 pm, and the hearing went on for another hour. The League was there. The hotel industry testified first. Weddig asked if the plan would be phased in. Kufrin said yes, the municipalities grandfathered would have to move the money in thirds over three years. Moneypenny said they’ve made two modifications: It’s now over five years, and the 3% for lodging owners to keep off the top went down to 2½%. Weddig asked about discussion for administrative money; Kufrin said it would shift entirely to the municipality’s 30%.
Stayton asked if the Commission should invite Bies to a meeting to focus concerns and questions. Starr felt it might seem like The Zone is ganging up on him. Tice felt the local municipalities should meet and discuss how to fix it rather than a legislator. Kufrin asked the Commission members to talk to their boards. Kufrin said the composition of the various boards is still an issue. Holtz noted that at the Governor’s Conference, other municipalities were upset at Door County. They are competition areas but they also have the ability to refer business. Moneypenny said he has been privy to the bill for about two years; he had a gag order. Kufrin said if you read different parts of the bill, it’s not clear which set of standards apply to a group like the DCVB. One section says the board has to be a different composition than a different section of the bill. Holtz felt the WI Hotel & Lodging Association would keep it on a front burner; there’s animosity from that group and its members. Kufrin was astounded that they honed in on The Zone’s testimony as the reason for the bill being withdrawn. The points they spoke to, in general, was support for the activities. It was the wording and the negative impact on The Zone specifically. What are they keying in on? Moneypenny felt others thought Door County got the wrong impression and started calling the trade association (Ed Lump) to take power away from restaurants to sit on committees. Then the Restaurant Association was brought in. As soon as the session comes back, it’ll be back on the table. It needs two public hearings, and then it’ll go to the floor. Kufrin said that any drafter of a bill has it clear in his or her own mind; however, the semantics might not translate to others’ interpretation. There are a lot of ambiguities not delineated in the bill. Holtz offered to call Pugal; Forkert felt it should be a group of two or three. Kufrin will call her Pugal to see if she’s interested in meeting.
Moneypenny felt that the municipalities that testified were told, “Go and say this.” Those communities that have abused the room tax. There are issues that need to be addressed, but the core is to get some of these communities straight. The 4% is a deal between DCVB and The Zone; even with the bill, the deal could stay the same. However, Moneypenny felt the 4% should become a flat dollar amount and not a percentage. Kufrin said it would be simpler to grandfather The Zone in and keep the financial arrangement as agreed. As written, the bill could have unintended consequences.
Kufrin noted that the July 19 meeting needs a venue; Ephraim’s Village Hall is being used that day. Tice offered Sevastopol.
Consider a Motion to Accept Kathy Kirkland’s resignation
Kirkland has been sole employee nearly four years; Kufrin understands her reasons for resigning. She will make sure to leave an extensive training manual. Kufrin put an ad in right away, similar to the first ad. Weddig and Kufrin are conducting interviews on Tuesdays. If someone else wants to come, the interviews are starting at 1:30. Kufrin thanked Kirkland. Tice moved to accept her resignation with regrets; LeClair seconded. All ayes.
Consideration of Approving Reports and Payables plus Receipts to Date
Moneypenny said the DCVB doesn’t have a problem holding checks back but asks if he Zone is going to do so, tell the DCVB it’s going to happen. Kirkland noted an extra check drawn up for a motel that inadvertently overpaid. Weddig moved to accept the reports from Kerber Rose; Stayton seconded. All ayes.
Consider motion for Closed Session pursuant to Wisconsin State Statutes, Section 19.85(1)(a)(f) or (g) to consider enforcement action against certain businesses regarding the room tax permitting, late payments and reporting and State Statutes §19.85(1)(e): deliberating or negotiating the purchasing of public properties, the investing of public funds, or conducting other specified public business, whenever competitive or bargaining reasons require a closed session to discuss the Entity Agreement negotiations and DCVB audit issues
Kufrin moved to consider motion to convene into Closed Session; Tice seconded. All ayes by roll call.
Consider a Motion to Reconvene into Open Session.
The Commission voted by roll call, all ayes, to return to Open Session (11:40).
Consider a motion to take action, if required.
Zacek moved and Tice seconded that Kirkland send out letters as discussed in Closed Session. All ayes.
Stayton moved and Zacek seconded to adjourn. All ayes. The meeting adjourned at 11:45 a.m.
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