Baker County’s Transient Lodging Tax Committee met Thursday morning, Oct. 7, to review the two proposals for operating a visitor center in Baker City, and the committee, which advises the Baker County Board of Commissioners, gave a narrow edge to the proposal from Anthony Lakes Outdoor Recreation Association.
The other proposal is from the Baker County Chamber of Commerce (under the Baker County Unlimited umbrella), which had the previous visitor center contract.
The Board of Commissioners, who have the final say on awarding the contract, will meet Thursday, Oct. 14 to discuss the committee’s recommendation. Two of the three commissioners, Bruce Nichols and Commission Chairman Bill Harvey, attended the committee’s meeting Thursday.
The new contract will continue through Jan. 1, 2024.
The previous visitor services contract, for about $77,000 per year, expired Aug. 31.
The Chamber of Commerce has continued to operate its visitors center at 490 Campbell St., near the freeeway, since.
Money for the contract comes from the tax that guests at motels, bed and breakfasts and other lodging establishments pay.
County commissioners initially were slated to award a new contract in early 2020.
The same two groups — the Chamber and Anthony Lakes — were the only applicants then as now.
The lodging tax committee, as well as the county’s Economic Development Committee, both recommended commissioners award the contract to Anthony Lakes.
But commissioners decided to postpone a decision, and the contract with the Chamber to operate the visitor center was extended several times over the next 20 months or so.
The Request for Proposals that the county sent out in early September included a scoring system for a variety of criteria:
• 5 points, cover letter
• 25 points, introductory statement and proposed plan of execution
• 15 points, staff
• 15 points, location
• 10 points, timeline for delivery
• 10 points, budget
• 10 points, performance measures and reporting requirements
• 5 points, references
• 5 points, conclusion
Tyler Brown, chairman of the lodging tax committee, said the final tally, by consensus of the committee, was 98 points for the proposal from the Anthony Lakes Outdoor Recreation Association, and 96 points for the Chamber of Commerce’s proposal.
Brown said both groups “knocked the proposal out of the park.”
Both were “incredibly well done,” he said. “It was very close.”
Brown said one of the lengthier discussions among committee members was about the proposed location of the visitor center.
The Chamber of Commerce proposes to continue operating at its current location.
Anthony Lakes, meanwhile, would have a visitor center at 1828 Main St. in downtown Baker City.
Other committee members are Toni Thompson, Tori Thatcher, Buell Gonzales Jr., Mandy Clark, Brian Vegter and Shane Alderson. Alderson was absent from the meeting.
Gonzales said he was impressed with both proposals.
“Both of them were well-done,” he said on Friday afternoon, Oct. 8.
Gonzales said he also believes that whichever proposal the commissioners choose, the county is in a good position in the future now that it has a specific list of performance expectations for the contractor.
“I was really happy walking out of that meeting yesterday,” he said.
Vegter had a similar assessment.
“Both proposals were really good, both were extremely competitive and detailed,” he said.
Vegter said he thinks it was vital for the county to compile a list of benchmarks it expects the visitor center operator to address, and the RFP, with its list of criteria, provides that.
“We’re telling them this is what we expect, and now we have a way to measure how well they’re doing,” he said.