Anthony Lakes Outdoor Recreation Association has withdrawn its proposal to operate a visitor center in Baker City.
Anthony Lakes, along with the previous contractor, the Baker County Chamber of Commerce, is vying for a new contract with Baker County.
County commissioners, who have the final say on awarding the contract, were slated to discuss the two proposals during a meeting on Thursday, Oct. 14.
The county’s transient lodging tax committee, which advises commissioners, reviewed the two proposals on Oct. 7 and scored them based on the criteria in the Request for Proposals the county sent out in early September.
The committee gave the Anthony Lakes proposal a score of 98 points, and the Chamber of Commerce proposal a score of 96.
In a letter emailed Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 13 to county commissioners, Anthony Lakes general manager Peter Johnson wrote:
“Thank you again for your time and consideration of the Baker County Visitor Services contract. We appreciate the County following through with the award of this contract. However, in light of recent events, ALORA is withdrawing our proposal for Visitor Services for Baker County.
“We have been persistent in seeing this process through with the goal of enhancing Baker County Visitor Services to better serve our small communities. Unfortunately, actions and statements over the past few months and specifically this past week by Baker County and its affiliates has moved us to withdraw our proposal for Visitor Services. It has become evident that any contractual or other agreement or relationship with Baker County can only be considered a liability to ALORA and its enterprises.
“If nothing else, we hope ALORA’s involvement in this RFP process raises the bar for Visitor Services in Baker County. We hope that the County can use this process as an opportunity to listen to stakeholders in the community as well as experts in the industry, and place more emphasis on digital visitor services, specific deliverables, reporting, and complete financial transparency within the Personal Services Contract (PSC) with BCU.
“We encourage the County to utilize the new ideas and method of work presented in the ALORA proposal that could benefit Baker County and Baker County Visitor Services and include it in the PSC. It is our hope that Baker County can use additional information and ideas within our proposal to help the Chamber of Commerce move forward with the new contract and hopefully reach some of the 70% of the U.S. population that “always” use their phone for visitor information.
“ALORA is eager to assist with the implementation of expanded digital visitor services for Baker County. We have some very talented individuals working with us, all of which are passionate about seeing Baker County effectively and tactfully reach its full potential with tourism and visitor services. Please do not hesitate to reach out if there is anything we can assist with regarding digital Visitor Services and/or helping with the transition of a new Marketing Director.
“While this has been a bit of a process, we appreciate the County taking the steps to see through the RFP process. We are hoping with the new ideas and approach on the table, the Chamber of Commerce will be able to implement at least some of these new ideas and bring Visitor Services for Baker County up to industry standards. As previously mentioned, we are more than happy to help in any way we can, it has just become evident that by keeping the best interest of our business in mind, we cannot enter into a contract with Baker County at this time.
“Thank you again and please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or if ALORA is able to assist the County in any way.”
In a phone interview Wednesday afternoon, Johnson declined to cite any specific actions or statements he referenced in his letter.
“We were 100 percent in until just a couple days ago,” he said.
Johnson said that although he “sees a lot of potential with the visitor center contract” and is confident that Anthony Lakes Outdoor Recreation Association would be able to accomplish all the tasks it laid out in its proposal, he is concerned about “everyone working together to promote Baker County tourism and our small businesses.”
Johnson declined be more specific.
He said he has offered the assistance of Anthony Lakes employees to the Chamber of Commerce.
“We want to do everything we can to help them,” Johnson said. “I’m not saying they need us to, but I want to have an open line of communication.”
County commissioner Mark Bennett said that although he can only speak for himself and not for the two other commissioners, Bruce Nichols and chairman Bill Harvey, he sees no reason, considering the lodging tax committee’s scoring, not to move forward and award the contract to the Chamber of Commerce.