Communication makes a difference
Members of Weirton City Council Thursday put an end to an issue that shouldn’t have reached the point that it became an issue.
The concerns centered on the Top of West Virginia Convention and Visitors Bureau, and whether the city would remain a part of the 25-year-old organization that helps to promote Hancock and Brooke counties. It is funded, in part, by contributions from communities in those areas.
A little less than $200,000 of its annual budget, about 60 percent, comes from Weirton’s hotel and motel tax. That’s an amount City Manager Joe DiBartolomeo has suggested could be better spent if it stayed in the city and was used to promote activities and attractions there. Under his plan, city personnel and select members of the community would have served on a board and chosen a director who would have worked out of the Millsop Community Center.
DiBartolomeo, who first raised the idea during an October council workshop session, explained during the Nov. 9 City Council meeting that his plan to form a municipal bureau was the result of six months of research into the topic. He added that, in addition to the money from Weirton, funding for the existing C&VB came from Hancock County in the form of hotel-motel tax money generated from Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort.
No money comes from Brooke County because it does not have a hotel-motel tax, he added.
And, he said, while Weirton is represented on the bureau’s board of directors, it does not have a representative on either the finance or executive committees.
The discussion broke down after members of council told the city manager they had yet to receive from him and the bureau information they had requested after an earlier meeting.
That changed Thursday, when members of council met in an executive session with Terri Phillips, executive director of the bureau. And while there was no detailed information released about the meeting, City Attorney Vincent Gurrera said there would be better communication between the city and the tourism bureau. He said no official decision had been made, but the bureau would basically continue to operate the way it has. Neither DiBartolomeo nor Mayor Harold Miller attended Thursday’s special session.
What remains unclear is why DiBartolomeo was so insistent on pulling the city from the Top of WV bureau, which has helped to promote many events and activities in the city, including summer concerts and other events at the Weirton Event Center. The bureau’s office is located along Main Street in the city and has plans to enlarge space for the Summit Art Gallery.
He offered vague reasons during the Nov. 9 meeting, including the apparent failed submission of a required financial report. He also expressed dissatisfaction with the process that was used to hire Phillips, who lives in Wheeling. He added a resident of Weirton would be more appropriate for the job, saying several city residents, including a relative of his, had applied.
Certainly the city and other shareholders in the bureau are entitled to prompt and accurate financial reports. The process used to select the director, meanwhile, is a question for the board to answer — and one Assistant City Manager DeeAnn Pulliam, who is the city’s representative on the board, should certainly have been able to provide insight into.
Good communication among boards and their stakeholders is vital. After all of the discussion, all of the raised voices and a threat by DiBartolomeo to stop holding workshop sessions, the concerns about Weirton’s involvement in the Top of WV Convention and Visitors Bureau all seem to have come down to failed lines of dialogue.
It seems like members of council and the bureau are willing to improve the way they communicate — that’s good for the city, good for the organization and good for the prospect of attracting visitors to the Northern Panhandle.