Baker County commissioners are slated to resume their discussion Wednesday of a topic that generated controversy last winter, the choice of a contractor to run a visitors center in Baker City.
The Baker County Chamber of Commerce has the current 6-year contract, which pays the Chamber about $77,000 annually to operate the visitors center at 480 Campbell St.
The Baker County Development Corporation, which operates Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort as well as Quail Ridge Golf Course, also applied for the contract in late 2019.
The county’s lodging tax committee solicited proposals for the contract. Money for the visitors center comes from the 7% tax that motels, bed-and-breakfasts and other lodging businesses collect from their guests.
Both the lodging tax committee and the Baker Economic Development Committee voted this winter to recommend commissioners award the new contract to Anthony Lakes.
Shelly Cutler, the Chamber of Commerce’s executive director, said the loss of the contract could force the Chamber to cease putting on the annual Miners Jubilee event in July in Baker City.
The county contract covers operation of the visitors center, not event coordination, but Cutler said the loss of the revenue would affect the Chamber’s ability to handle Miners Jubilee.
Commissioners decided on Feb. 19 to postpone a decision on the visitor center contract until Oct. 1, 2020.
(The Chamber had to cancel Miners Jubilee due to the coronavirus pandemic.)
On Sept. 9 Peter Johnson, general manager of Anthony Lakes, sent a letter to county commissioners asking that they vote during their Sept. 16 meeting on awarding the 6-year contract.
The agenda for Wednesday’s meeting, which starts at 9 a.m. at the Courthouse, 1995 Third St., lists the visitor center contract as a discussion item at 9:10 a.m.
Both Johnson and Cutler said they plan to attend Wednesday’s meeting.
Johnson included with his letter a memorandum addressing concerns that commissioners mentioned in February when they postponeed the awarding of the contract.
Commissioner Mark Bennett cited the county’s involvement with the Baker County Development Commission, the nonprofit that owns Anthony Lakes, including the sole vote on the nonprofit’s board of directors.
In his memo, Johnson writes that Baker County no longer has any legal affiliation with Anthony Lakes or its owner.
Bennett confirmed that the county has relinquished its interest in the corporation.
Bennett said Wednesday afternoon that he doesn’t expect commissioners to make any decision Wednesday, and that he beleives commissioners need to gather more information, including whether the lodging tax committee continues to recommend commissioners award the contract to Anthony Lakes.
When commissioners postponed a decision in February they agreed to schedule public meetings across the county to solicit comments from residents about the contract.
Bennett noted Monday that those meeings have not happened.