About That Merger…

In the struggle over which will eventually be designated Tourism Promotion Agency (TPA) in Warren County, a few arguments tend to repeat themselves whenever the issue arises.

One recurring subject has been a possible merger between the Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry’s (WCCBI) Council on Tourism (COT) and the Warren County Visitors Bureau (WCVB).

The Warren County Commissioners urged the two sides to consider this solution to provide a single agency focused on county tourism more than a year ago. The eventual failure of such a merger to occur has been cited by the commissioners as a part of the underlying impetus behind their move to pass a resolution transferring the TPA designation, and the county hotel occupancy tax that goes with it, from the WCVB to the WCCBI.

Throughout presentations at municipal meetings around the county since the commissioners’ September decision, WCVB and WCCBI representatives have agreed on a few key points, but differ on how they view others.

Both sides agree the WCCBI did present a merger proposal. They also agree that the WCVB rejected that proposal and countered with a proposal of its own, which was, in turn, rejected by the WCCBI.

The contents of the proposals, however, have been at issue.

The WCCBI proposal would have folded the WCVB and the COT into a new division of the WCCBI, keeping the WCVB name.

The new WCVB division would have been governed by its own board, made up of members of the current WCVB and COT boards. The new board would consist of between 11 and 15 members, including six members of the current WCVB board.

Members would have served three-year terms and be limited to two consecutive terms. As the new board would have served for a newly created entity, time already served by members on the existing WCVB and COT boards would not have counted against these term limits.

The new board would have hosted three officer-level positions a chair, vice chair and secretary elected by the board. Individuals holding these positions would have served in that capacity on a year-to-year basis, without regard to term limit, as long as they remained elected officers.

Election of new board members was to be held annually, dependent upon board vacancies, and new terms would begin on Jan.1.

Candidates for board membership would have been selected by a nominating committee consisting of a WCCBI staff member assigned to manage the new division and two members of the new division’s board. Candidates selected by this committee would have been subject to approval by the WCCBI CEO and the WCCBI board chairman.

The WCCBI proposal required that candidates represent businesses within the county and be members of the WCCBI to meet the criteria for approval.

Board members would have been elected from the pool of proposed candidates by the WCCBI board.

Unexpired term vacancies on the new board would have been filled by majority vote of the new board.

Failure to attend three meetings of the new board would have initiated contact with the absent board member and, if no satisfactory excuse was given within 30 days, resulted in the board member being considered to have resigned.

The new WCVB division of WCCBI’s board would have consisted of three standing committees events, advertising/marketing and tourism asset development.

General management of the new division would have been handled by a designated staff representative, employed by WCCBI.

Initially, the director of the COT would have served as designated staff representative for WCCBI and held the position of director of tourism and events. The current WCVB executive director would have assumed the position of director of advertising and marketing. The two positions would have been considered WCCBI employees answering to WCCBI President and CEO Jim Decker.

All assets and liabilities of the WCVB and the COT would have transferred to the new WCCBI division.

The WCVB counter proposal provided little detail, but did outline a general plan.

The plan would have absorbed the COT into WCVB, and bring COT’s funding and director with it. The COT would have become an internal division of the WCVB.

WCVB’s executive director would have become director of tourism and the COT’s director would have become director of events. The COT director would have transferred all operations to the Warren County Visitor Center on Route 6 in Starbrick.

All funding allocated to the COT by the WCCBI would have been paid to the WCVB, to support additional costs.

The current boards of the COT and the WCVB would been combined. The WCVB proposal provides no specifications on board make-up or terms or number of board members.

Only two standing board committees were outlined under the WCVB proposal, a tourism asset development/marketing committee and an events committee.

The WCVB proposal also required WCCBI furnish a “complete, detailed and separate accounting” for COT events during 2010 and 2011.