MARINETTE — Marinette County will renew its contract with the City of Marinette for marketing and tourism services if the County Board of Supervisors on Dec. 18 approves the recommendation of its Development Committee.

The Development Committee voted 6-1 on Tuesday to recommend county board approval to enter into a contract with the City of Marinette to provide tourism and marketing services through Dec. 31, 2019.

The board voted last February to contract with the city to share the services of a city employee to provide tourism and marketing services, the county had been without a tourism coordinator since Butch Kostreva resigned in November of 2017. Some board members expressed apprehension that the person selected to fill that post wouldn’t market the county adequately and the person chosen to fill that post, Melissa Ebsch, has appeared before the committee and board to detail what she is doing to promote the county.

It was obvious at Tuesday’s meeting that some supervisors are very satisfied with what Ebsch is doing while others like Supervisor Don Pazynski are not.

“You are currently in a contract through Jan. 31 of next year with the City of Marinette,” said County Administrator John Lefebvre. “If you do not extend the contract you will no longer have anybody promoting Marinette County after January.”

“We don’t have anybody now anyway,” said Pazynski, interrupting Lefebvre.

“We have an individual promoting Marinette County,” Lefebvre said. “She’s reported at the county board and committee levels and the Tourism Alliance.”

Pazynski said “that individual in my estimation from my experience is not qualified, nothing personal.”

“All we’re doing is contributing one-half of a paycheck to the city,” he said. “We’re getting little or nothing from it.”

“I would disagree,” Lefebvre said. 

Supervisor Al Sauld agreed with what Pazynski was saying, he also doesn’t believe the county has gotten what is paid to receive from the contract with the city.

Debate over whether to renew the contract almost halted when nobody on the committee seconded the motion to approve the resolution on the agenda. Supervisor Tom Mandli made the motion to approve it with Supervisor Clancy Whiting seconding it “so we can have discussion on it.”

“My major concern is if we don’t OK this we have nothing for tourism (promotion) in this county until we get something else put in place,” Mandli said. “We could go half a year without any tourism (promotion at all).”

The county appropriated $90,000 this year for the contract, it has $125,000 included in its 2019 budget for tourism. The proposed contract for 2019 calls for the county to pay one-half of the marketing and tourism director’s salary and fringes, not to exceed $45,000; up to $10,000 for salaries and fringes for support staff, and $60,000 for expenses related to promoting tourism throughout the county.

“It has 30-day out at which time the committee can say at any point in time that we want out of this agreement,” Lefebvre said. “It’s only to extend the contract until you can put something (else) in place

“We have somebody in place. I disagree with what Don said, we are getting our money’s worth.”

Supervisor Robert Holley, a member of the committee and vice chairperson of the board, said it was evident from Ebsch’s recent presentation to the committee that she’s really trying to do a good job” by attending town meetings meeting with people in communities throughout the county.

“I don’t know if she’s the most qualified person in the world, but I think she’s really trying to do a good job,” he said. “I agree with Tom that we have to keep something going. As John says, if we don’t like it in 30 days we can decide what to do. I think it’s important that we extend this contract.”

Supervisor Bonnie Popp, who cast the only vote against the resolution, said Ebsch is “brand new (in the position) and she’s working hard, but she could use some help.”  She suggested that a member of the Tourism Alliance or someone appointed by the alliance have input on the tourism marketing. She suggested alternatives to the contract with the city such as a grant program for all the communities in the county to apply for and match.

The committee earlier in the meeting delayed discussion on creating a Convention and Visitors Bureau. Also discussed in the past, was contracting with the Marinette County Association for Business and Industry for tourism marketing services.

Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison cautioned committee members against doing performance reviews of a person who is not a public employee in a public setting, saying “that is very inappropriate.”

“I spoke out of line, I apologize for that,” Pazynski said. “I was not aware of at the time that we had a 30-day opt-out clause, that is important.

“Don’t you have a performance review before you consider extension of a contract? Isn’t that normally what you would do? We are paying one-half of a City of Marinette salary and the question is are we getting our money’s worth? Some think we are.”

Lefebvre said “please don’t move to discontinue this until we have something else put in place.”

The proposed contract contains a clause to resolve disputes saying “county and city agree to mediate claims or disputes arising out of or are relating to the agreement. The mediation shall he conducted by a mediation service acceptable to the parties. A demand for mediation shall be made within a reasonable time after a claim or dispute arises.”

The strongest support for Ebsch voiced at Tuesday’s meeting was by Supervisor Mark Anderson, who is county board chairperson, but not a member of the committee.

He cited the presentation she made last month to the Development Committee as evidence that “she’s on the move and is doing a helluva job for Marinette County.”

“She’s taken the time to get out in the county to meet with the people,” Anderson said. “She’s developing a plan around those meetings.

“She’s doing a helluva job and anybody who says anything different I’ll argue that up and down. We need to keep going, we need to have tourism.”