From left: Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce executive director John Devitt

Funding battle exposes rift between city, chamber of commerce

It’s a story that is best described as developing, and hopefully for tourism-related businesses in Revelstoke, it will end in some kind of a positive result.

It’s a story that is best described as developing, and hopefully for tourism-related businesses in Revelstoke, it will end in some kind of a positive result.

An upbeat, forward-looking presentation by Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce president Brydon Roe to the city’s committee of the whole on April 5 couldn’t out-positive the ongoing rift between the city and the chamber of commerce.

On the surface, the dispute seems to be over the loss of city and CSRD funding for the chamber’s tourism coordinator position, but below the surface bubbles an ongoing turf war over jurisdiction, and an extended tit-for-tat battle over the city budget.

Roe presented alongside chamber executive director John Devitt. The pair backed up a multi-page report on the chamber’s activities with a slide presentation emphasizing key initiatives the chamber is undertaking.

The chamber also presented a petition signed by about 80 chamber members requesting the city reinstate funding to the position, which totalled $30,000, including a contribution from the Columbia Shuswap Regional District. The chamber contends the funding rug was more or less yanked from under them a quarter of the way through their fiscal year.

Mayor David Raven and other city officials dispute this. They contend the funding was for a limited timeframe that ended last year, and that the chamber has been remiss in filing reports stipulated in the contract.

In an interview, chamber executive director John Devitt disputed this point.

The consensus seems to be the two parties disagree on many circumstances surrounding the funding.

To help settle the dispute, the Times Review requested a copy of the contract between the two. The mayor said it wasn’t a private document, and should be available to the public. The Times Review made the request to view it, but city staff were not able to provide the document by press time.

At the committee meeting, the mayor underscored his views. He said he was “a bit dismayed with the relationship issue” between the two groups. He noted that the city forked over $120,000 in funding annually to the chamber ($30,000 in tourism coordinator funding included) and that should give the city more say in chamber operations. “There doesn’t seem to be a cohesive message,” said Raven of the chamber’s tourism marketing. “With city council paying a third of your budget, I think city council should have some say in [it],” the mayor told Devitt.

In a later interview, the mayor emphasized that he wanted to see increased tourism marketing cooperation between the chamber and the Revelstoke Accommodation Association, the other major tourism marketing body in Revelstoke.

Raven also pointed directly at chamber lobbying for efficiencies and tax cuts from the city, saying the cut to the tourism coordinator position was an example of the city heeding the request.

The mayor also criticized the chamber’s recent forays into economic development, saying the city already had an economic development director.

In a subsequent interview, executive director John Devitt said the tourism funding position was a “vital piece” of the overall tourism marketing picture for Revelstoke. “It’s been operating for 15 years and we might see that shut down overnight without having any discussion or warning,” Devitt said. “That position does a lot for Revelstoke, very efficiently.”

He also emphasized the chamber does partner and coordinate efforts with the Revelstoke Accommodation Association.

He emphasized the city and chamber needed to work better together. “We’d really like to improve the communications both ways,” he said.

We asked mayor Raven about the way forward from here. He said Revelstoke thrived on teamwork. “One of the players is not on base,” Raven said. “We’ve got to get all the players on the same team. We’ve got to go back and understand who’s got what roles.”

Raven added that part of the solution to the tourism marketing issue would be about creating “efficiency.”

When asked about the funding issue, mayor Raven told the Times Review that the city financial plan was currently out for public comment, so council wouldn’t be commenting on specific issues until all comments on all budget issues were compiled into a report. That report is due at the April 19 committee of the whole meeting.

The Times Review did request an interview with the Revelstoke Accommodation Association (RAA), but their board spokesperson was unavailable by press time. Our request didn’t allow the RAA sufficient time to respond  — we called on a Friday afternoon.

 

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