Contract gives CVB crack at surpluses

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Despite the objections of two council members, the city of Albert Lea’s new contract with its tourism-promotion arm will include a clause calling for the city to consider granting any excess funds to the department at the end of each year.

The Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB), which receives $11,000 monthly from the city’s lodging tax, uses the money to promote the city. So far there have not been large surpluses from the lodging tax.

But City Councilors Ron Sorensen and Mary Kron said at Monday’s city council meeting that if the contract requires the city to consider giving surpluses to the CVB, the agency will start to expect the extra money every year. That decision should be up to the council, they argued, and even if the clause isn’t included in the contract, the use of any surplus is up to the city’s discretion.

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&uot;If it’s in the contract, it does infer that that will in fact take place, and it may not be in the city’s best interest at that particular time,&uot; Sorensen said.

The fund had a $500 surplus last year, leading other councilors to question why a fuss had to be made over such a small amount of money. But Sorensen said it’s possible that future surpluses could be larger, and the city should reserve the right to decide where that money would go.

Councilor George Marin, who serves as the city’s liaison to the CVB, said the contract still leaves the final decision up to the council, and argued that the clause does not make anything automatic.

The city and CVB discussed including the clause during a recent workshop, Marin said.

&uot;It seemed like there was somewhat of a gentlemen’s agreement (the clause) would be in there,&uot; Marin said after Monday’s meeting.

Others said the language acted as an invitation to more openness and a better relationship between the city and CVB, which have squabbled over funding in the last year.

&uot;What it does is formalize the new process so there’s a feeling of open communication,&uot; said Randy Kehr, president of the board of directors of the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce.

An effort by Kron and Sorensen to get the language stricken from the contract failed, and the council approved it in its original form.

In other council news:

– The city approved a resolution asking the Minnesota Department of Transportation for permission to use land in three locations for new entrance signs for the city. The locations are on East Main near I-35, North Bridge near I-90 and Highway 65 near the Elks Club. City Manager Paul Sparks said MnDOT approves of the projects.

– Councilors approved the creation of three new on-sale liquor licenses, which the state of Minnesota approved during the last legislative session.

Sparks said the licenses are for on-premises alcohol consumption in places like restaurants and bars, not new liquor stores. One of the three licenses is being set aside for a possible new restaurant on East Main Street near the Country Inn and Suites hotel.

– The city will annex approximately 25 acres in the Southeast Marshall Street area. The area is now served by city utilities.

– Responding to a request by Albert Lea resident and mayoral candidate Tony Trow, the city agreed to post signs near the new boat dock by the city beach indicating that it’s a public dock. Trow said the new dock may be underused because people don’t realize it can be used by the public.