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Business group awarded CVB designation

By 
Sam Klomhaus — Enterprise Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 15, 2020
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Enterprise photo by Nate Howard

Livingston Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Leslie Feigel stands in the visitor center Wednesday morning.

365体育网址The Livingston City Commission voted 4-0 Tuesday to change the city’s convention and visitor’s bureau designee from the Livingston Area Chamber of Commerce to the Livingston Business Improvement District.

Commissioner Mel Friedman was absent. A CVB is an organization chosen by the City Commission to receive money through the Lodging Facility Use Tax and use that money for marketing and to attract visitors. Only one nonprofit within each tourism region or eligible area can be approved to receive those funds, according to the state of Montana.

The meeting was held via the Zoom teleconferencing system. The resolution is effective July 1, 2020.

LBID Board President Kristen Galbraith said Wednesday the designation complements what the LBID already does in terms of promoting tourism in the area. Galbraith said the LBID is already working on the marketing plan and reaching out to the Montana Department of Commerce.

The marketing plan is due to the state by May 4, according to the meeting’s information packet, with full adoption in July.

365体育网址The call for bids went out in late January, but in February the chamber received an emergency injunction preventing the city from going through the bid process. District judge Brenda Gilbert ruled March 17 that the city has the right to go through the bid process, but the chamber should have a chance to submit a bid.

The chamber and the LBID both submitted bids to the city, which were reviewed by a five-person selection committee made up of Katie Weaver, Dr. Scott Coleman, Rachel Anderson, Tanya Greenfield and Colin Davis. The committee, which was put together by Kardoes, recommended the city accept the LBID’s bid.

City manager Michael Kardoes said there was no specific requirement for scoring or evaluating the bid proposals, and that the selection committee was merely a recommending body, with the final decision being made by the commission.

Both organizations are legally qualified to serve as the CVB, city attorney Courtney Lawellin said.

There was nothing specifically different about the CVB bid evaluation process from other processes the city has gone through recently with programs such as the Revolving Loan Fund, Kardoes said. He said city staff also recommended the commission choose the LBID’s bid.

Commissioner Quentin Schwarz said the commission received both bids for their review.

Chamber CEO Leslie Feigel said during public comment that she disagreed with the committee’s recommendation and that the committee had been “handpicked” by Kardoes.

“I’m very taken aback by this whole entire process,” Feigel said.

Commission Chairwoman defended the selection committee’s impartiality during her comments on the issue, and said the commission wasn’t just following what Kardoes wanted.

The Chamber has been the city’s CVB designee since 2015, and Feigel asked the commission to consider the years of effort she has put in to the CVB. She said the chamber has been very successful marketing the area, and was never contacted by the city about wanting changes to the CVB.

“The Chamber will be the visitor’s bureau regardless, but we’ll be doing it with less money,” Chamber Board President Mark Bassett said.

Livingston Hoot organizer Joanne Lowell and Murray owner Kathleen Kaul both spoke at the meeting in favor of the LBID. Kaul said there is a need for fresh blood, and more collaboration among the business community.

During public comment, Jack Luther said the LBID, as a seven-member board that meets once a month, is not equipped to handle the workload that comes with the CVB.

Kardoes said the LBID’s proposal included a full-time executive director who would oversee the CVB, LBID and Tourism Business Improvement District.

365体育网址That hiring process won’t occur right away, Galbraith said Wednesday, but the LBID has a “really strong” team already.

Several chamber board members said during public comment the LBID, as a downtown Livingston organization, is not adequately positioned to market all of Park County.

Galbraith said Wednesday it won’t be hard for the LBID to expand its marketing efforts to the rest of Park County.

Also during public comment, several chamber board members said the matter should be tabled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

365体育网址Kardoes said tabling the matter would be in effect the same thing as killing the resolution, as the timeline for CVBs to submit their marketing plans is such that the matter couldn’t be addressed for another year.

Schwarz said there’s no better time than right now for a change, and the city can re-open with fresh blood and new insight.

Chamber board member John Payne said a personality conflict between Kardoes and Feigel has created a major issue for everyone else.

Hoglund said during her comments that, even if such a conflict exists, the commission’s decision isn’t about that.

Commissioner Warren Mabie said his decision wasn’t personal, but based on the best interests of Livingston.

“I don’t want people to think this is a coup or anything,” Galbraith said Wednesday.

The LBID doesn’t function without the support of all of Park County, Galbraith said, and it’s time to come together for the greater good. 

365体育网址Commissioner Melissa Nootz said there is a strong interest in community collaboration to help recover from the pandemic.

“This was a done deal with the city,” Chamber Vice President Jami Rebsom said Wednesday. 

365体育网址The chamber didn’t have much time to respond to the resolution, Rebsom said, but it got a lot of support from local businesses.

365体育网址Feigel said Wednesday morning she was “flabbergasted” by the decision, but the chamber will continue to support its members and bring awareness to the area..

365体育网址“A lot of people appreciate the work that I do  and I appreciate their support,” Feigel said.

Rebsom said she hopes the LBID does a good job with the CVB, which is a huge undertaking.

365体育网址In other business, the commission voted 4-0 to zone the Green Acres subdivision “medium density residential” and the Green Acres Park a city park once it is transferred to the city by Park County.

The medium residential zoning is consistent with the rest of the city, Kardoes said, and the park should be transferred over by the city sometime in the near future.

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