Visitors center reps fear impact of proposed county budget cuts | SummitDaily.com
Jane Reuter

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Visitors center reps fear impact of proposed county budget cuts

SUMMIT COUNTY – Summit County Visitors Information Centers representatives say if the county goes ahead with its recommended budget cut, hours at the two centers will likely be cut. That, they believe, could be detrimental to the county’s well being.

Summit County commissioners are still reviewing the proposed budget, which calls for a cutting the Visitor Information Centers (VIC) by a third. Last year, the county contributed $30,000 to the group. This year, the proposed donation is $10,000.

“We know the county is in a real big budget crisis, but for them to cut $20,000 out of our funding is really going to hinder our visitors centers,” said Maggie Lifland, president of the Summit County Visitor Information Center. “Chances are we’d have to cut back on hours, find a way to make some of it become self service.

“More than 100,000 guests a year come through the door, asking a wide variety of questions. If the Visitors Information Center doesn’t provide information to the visitors, someone else is going to have to step up and do it. In my opinion, we’ve become very good at working with very little. It seems to me if they can’t come up with the funding (for the center), they’ll have to find a way to do it at a much higher cost.”

The Summit County Chamber of Commerce manages the operation of the Frisco and Silverthorne centers, although the centers are under the auspices of a separate non-profit board.

Visitors can walk in, ask questions of staff and volunteers and pick up brochures about Summit County businesses and events.

The VIC program has a total budget of about $180,000 a year, and an annual payroll of about $60,000, Lifland said. Furthermore, the group benefits from fundraisers like Monte Carlo Night.

Last year, the Frisco VIC moved to a new location on Summit Boulevard next to Subway in the Antlers complex. Antlers owner Dan Sederstrom sold the condominiumized space to the VIC.

“We have a mortgage to pay off,” Lifland said, “so the county’s contribution is a healthy portion of the budget.”

The county, however, is in a tight spot. Its $46 million budget came up $1.7 million short, forcing manager Ron Holliday to propose cuts that include the loss of 11 positions and reductions in virtually every department.

The budget is set for adoption Monday afternoon, and VIC representatives say they’ll be there before the final vote to ask for some consideration.

County Commissioner Gary Lindstrom said the center representatives aren’t the only ones making comments about the budget. They also aren’t the only ones facing some potentially painful reductions.

The budget recommendation calls for reducing the county’s contribution to the Summit Foundation, a philanthropic countywide organization, from $65,000 to $55,000. Foundation director Deb Edwards said the cutback doesn’t come as a

surprise.

“Under the circumstances, the county had to look everywhere to make cuts,” she said. “I didn’t expect we would be excluded from scrutiny.

“A $55,000 contribution to the Summit Foundation is significant and will go a long way in supporting community needs.”

Lindstrom said making final decisions on the budget proposal is a matter of establishing priorities.

“I think the question would be whether or not we feel as though (the center) has a high enough priority to maintain the existing level of funding,” he said. “It’s the old bullets and bread thing. When the United States was considering going into World War II in the midst of a depression, people were asking if you give dollars to fight a war or do you give dollars to feed people. In this case, do you spend money for marketing or to fix the road?”

Holliday said he doesn’t think his recommendation for the visitor center reduction is unreasonable, “not when we are looking at laying people off.”

“I wish I could give you a spiel about some sort of magic formula for how we come up with these recommendations,” he said. “It just seemed to me when I was looking at the budget that this is somewhat of an unusual level of support for a non-direct county service.”

The centers also get funding from most of the towns and the ski areas, as well as the Summit County Chamber of

Commerce.