BELLE FOURCHE — The Belle Fourche City Council unanimously decided to earmark up to $78,000 in their 2014 budget to go to the Belle Fourche Visitor Information Center, an entity managed by the Belle Fourche Chamber of Commerce. But this funding is contingent on a report from a task force established by the city of Belle Fourche to investigate what entity should run the center and how much that should cost.
The $78,000 would be a $10,000 increase from fiscal year 2013 if the full amount is allocated. The money requested by the visitor center would be used to hire an additional seasonal employee, provide signs on the north and south ends of town to direct visitors to the facility, and provide touch screen monitors that would potentially allow for the facility to remain open 24-hours a day.
Jeff Otterman, chamber president, said a task force was established last year that included city members and chamber members who set requirements the Belle Fourche Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Information Center must meet, such as extending business hours.
The new task force, comprised of Councilwomen Chrisann Mateer, Gloria Landphere, and Councilman Greg Raisanen, will meet in the next few weeks and recommend to the full council by Sept. 30 who should run the Belle Fourche Visitor Information Center and the dollar amount needed to do so.
“We’d really like to take a look at that (request),” said Mateer at the city council meeting Wednesday, citing that the visitor center employees’ job is to promote the city of Belle Fourche. “We’re not seeing that type of commitment from the employees at the visitors center.”
“You’re not seeing it because you’re not in the center,” countered Teresa Schanzenbach, executive director of the chamber.
“We need to take a portion of those dollars and use them for advertising. We’re the only ones supporting Belle Fourche businesses. We do take it very seriously … we extended the weekend hours. We will continue to be open through the season of September,” she said. “We get very, very positive comments back from all our guests on how they’re treated.”
Mateer suggested that the city should not fund the Belle Fourche Visitor Information Center at that time.
“If it’s not funded at all then it will only be the chamber of commerce there,” Schanzenbach said, adding that the visitor center’s hours have been extended despite a $10,000 cut in funding last year. “We have made the changes as was asked for (by the task force) … I haven’t heard one thing about how someone isn’t treated well in the visitor center … If you cut that now, we have no way of funding advertising for 2014. People are looking at us and they do want to come. The staff is award winning. We have been recognized by the state.”
Mateer then suggested cutting funding to $40,000 to $50,000 per year, to “get the same, if not better, service from some other company.”
Other council members were not in agreement with that suggestion. Councilman David Pummel suggested earmarking $80,000 to operate the center in 2014.
“We don’t have to spend it now, but let’s set that aside,” Pummel said. “We need to work through these issues … we don’t want to come up short.”
The Belle Fourche City Council came to an agreement to earmark up to $78,000 to be budgeted for 2014 for the Belle Fourche Visitor Information Center, with the amount of money to be spent contingent on the recommendation of the task force.