CLEARFIELD – Clearfield County Recreation and Tourism Authority, the governing board of the county’s tourism promotion agency, Visit Clearfield County, barely had a quorum at yesterday’s meeting.
There are currently nine seats on the board and for a quorum they needed five members. Those who were able to make the meeting included Randy Schmidt, Izen Lingenfelter, Bonnie Harper and county Commissioners Mark McCracken and Tony Scotto.
After preliminary meeting details, the board heard from Angela Stewart, manager of Homewood Suites by Hilton, a hotel located in DuBois.
Her first question for the board was about the lack of hoteliers on the board. She stated she has heard the county has trouble finding people to serve on the CCRTA board, and there are three hoteliers in DuBois who would gladly serve.
McCracken and Scotto stated they would like to have more hotel representation and explained the process. The commissioners appoint members of the board from letters of interest received.
When there is a vacancy on the board, the commissioners announce the vacancy at their public meetings and request letters, which is often then reported in the media.
However, the vacancies usually are not the first item in news stories. After the public announcement, the information can be disseminated to the public via e-mail or other methods of contact.
Stewart suggested that the director of VCC could send out an e-mail to tourism partners to let them know of the vacancy.
She also asked about a survey she and other hoteliers received recently from the commissioners’ office. The other board members were unaware of the survey, as was the staff of VCC.
As the meeting progressed, the commissioners explained the survey came from the committee organized earlier this month consisting of Commissioner John Sobel, Solicitor Kim Kesner and County Treasurer Carol Fox, who were charged to meet with the chairman and solicitor of CCRTA and discuss the new Act 18 signed by Gov. Tom Wolf in March.
Act 18 affects tourism, especially in regards to the Hotel Tax, which funds VCC and tourism promotion in the county. At the meeting, the commissioners and Fox agreed that the ordinance authorizing the tax of 3 percent for all out-of-county hotel stays needs to be reviewed in general, and also the new information in the new Act, which allows the tax to be increased to 5 percent, among other things.
McCracken stated he understood that the three county representatives met with the executive committee of CCRTA and their solicitor this past Monday, but he didn’t know who was present for the meeting or anything discussed, as Sobel has not reported back in a public commissioners’ meeting.
He said the committee wants feedback from the hotels and the general public. Stewart said the survey should have been sent out much earlier. McCracken added that the commissioners’ office didn’t receive information regarding the Act until just before the meeting at the beginning of the month.
Stewart said they had made right-to-know requests from VCC and the commissioners and immediately received the VCC information but not from the county.
Scotto noted they are working on getting that information to her, but many staff members have been absent recently and they had to request an extension.
Executive Director Holly Komonczi asked what complaints the commissioners have received and Stewart added, “We have not facilitated any complaints,” adding that the hotel representatives she has talked to haven’t voiced any complaints to her either.
Schmidt asked the commissioners to communicate with the board and public better. He said it would have been nice if the board had been told about the survey just so they were aware of what was going on, instead of being surprised. He said in the past month he has received about a dozen calls from people wondering what is going on.
Stewart remarked on the power the board has to improve tourism in the county and how she has appreciated working with the staff of VCC and their help. “I think this board has a lot to give to Clearfield County.”
Later in the meeting, Komonczi again asked what complaints the commissioners have received from the public. “What is the staff doing that we need to fix?” she asked.
McCracken explained that the complaints haven’t been made in public meetings but in one-on-one conversations, and they may or may not have merit and need to be looked into first.
Komonczi then told the board and commissioners that her staff works extremely hard, and if there are problems she needs to know so that they can be fixed.
She said in recent weeks, the staff has been worried that there are problems with their work and where they stand in regards to employment.
She stated it is especially hard right now when they don’t know exactly what is going on, and there is no budget to work on and the board appears to be very political right now.
“Everyone is doing a great job in my opinion,” Komonczi concluded, and Schmidt agreed.
The commissioners had no further statements regarding the matter.
A nearly 30-minute executive session was held mid-meeting regarding personnel, but the only action taken was a vote to table all personnel matters and the budget until a later date. The board then set the next meeting for Aug. 17 at 8:30 a.m. at the VCC offices in the Big Lots Plaza, 208 Plaza Dr.
Since no budget has been passed as of yet, Komonczi asked about how the office should proceed without a spending plan. Schmidt suggested they operate on last year’s budget as a guide.
The board also accepted the resignation of Jeffrey Baronick from the board. The resignation was submitted to the commissioners first. Anyone interested in serving on the board is welcome to submit a letter to the commissioners.