The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Staying afloat: VCVB reinvents itself

Membership meeting reveals bare bones budget for 2012


Few members of the business community joined organizers of the yearly membership meeting of the Valdez Convention and Visitors Bureau Thursday night.

About half of the new board of directors and the organization’s last remaining paid employee, Evan Diagneault, braved the cold to host a one-hour meeting to tout the organization’s recent successes and give a very brief overview of how it is working to overcome its recent troubles that saw its city funding suspended amid the abrupt departure of former executive director, Dave Peterson.

The VCVB 2012 Vacation Guide was debuted, as well as copies of articles from niche publications - such as Snowshoeing Magazine - highlighting Valdez.

While the board stressed the organization’s strengths, it could not avoid also talking about its current vulnerabilities.

The organization is running on a shoestring budget and relying heavily on volunteer efforts from board members.

“We trimmed the fat off the 2012 budget,” VCVB board treasurer Patty Relay said.

It has hired former board president Colleen Stephens as a contract manager for the current year and Valdez business woman Phyllis Johnson as contract account manager as well.

Stephens put in the only bid proposal after the board advertised for contract management services.

Stephens and Johnson will effectively act in place of an executive director according to Relay.

“She brings a whole fresh perspective,” she said about Johnson’s contract.

The future of the VCVB may be in the hands of a task force formed at the behest of Valdez Mayor Dave Cobb.

After several false starts, the task force is slated to have its first meeting Monday, February 6, according to John Hozey, city manager.

“At a minimum, we’re charged with reviewing the status of the VCVB,” Hozey said.

The VCVB first came under fire in the city’s 2011 budget hearings in late 2010. The organization had failed to produce a required audit of its finances and Hozey suspended funding to the organization, which is primarily funded through the city’s bed tax.

The board later dismissed its executive director and threw itself on the mercy of the Valdez City Council when it became apparent its books were ill-kept and in no position for an audit.

Courtesy of the VCVB

This pie chart lays out the current expenditures of the VCVB.

In late 2011, the board asked the city to forward fund $153,000 to pay off VCVB debts - including printing contracts due and payable for the 2012 Vacation Guide.

While the bills are paid, the cash advance left the organization cash strapped for the coming season.

“We have a few issues,” Relay said during the meeting. “We’re still sorting a lot of the mess out.”

However, progress has been made she said. Audits for 2008 and 2009 have been completed.

“We’re hoping to have some closure to 2010 soon,” Relay said, with a 2011 audit to begin – hopefully – in March.


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