Tourism is proving to be a turbulent relationship between city government and the McMinnville-Warren County Chamber of Commerce.
In an email to McMinnville Board of Mayor and Aldermen members from Chamber president Mandy Eller, she expressed concern for what she considers unnecessary meetings by city administrator Bill Brock that slowed down the process for a $28,500 tourism grant -- to the point the grant was lost.
However, Brock counters that Eller is responsible for losing the grant because she didn’t obtain competitive bids, or provide progress reports as required.
The grant was originally obtained by the Chamber in 2017.
In her email to the city board last Friday Eller wrote, “There was another meeting yesterday to discuss the Tourism Enhancement Grant. In that meeting, Bill Brock discouraged the board members repeatedly from seeking grants for the city. There have been many, many meetings lately concerning this grant.”
Eller was grant administrator, meaning she oversaw expenditures and grant reimbursement and had to work closely with McMinnville Parks and Recreation director Scott McCord and Brock.
However, said Eller, Brock insisted on board members being in attendance during “superfluous” meetings.
“This grant should never have taken so much work,” Eller said. “This has inconsiderately involved aldermen during their work time on issues they should not have to repeatedly be involved in. It is as if Mr. Brock is trying to teach us a lesson about going after grants by using this grant as an example.”
Brock had a response during Tuesday night’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting.
“I don’t think the email was fair or very kind,” said Brock as he presented officials with information that showed he’s not to blame for losing the $28,500 grant.
The tourism grant was from the Appalachian Regional Commission. Per grant requirements, the company generating a master tourism plan for the city must be chosen through a competitive bidding process.
The company selected, Griggs & Maloney, was not.
On April 13, 2017, ARC representative Catherine Feerick sent an email to the Chamber that grant monies could not be used to pay Griggs & Maloney $10,000 for its services.
ARC also stated Eller, as grant administrator, failed to submit quarterly reports to ARC as required by grant guidelines. Eller submitted one of three 120-day reports, said Feerick.
When contacted after she sent her email to city board members, Eller expressed regret for the situation.
“I was trying not to make this ugly, but I felt something needed to be done,” she said. “The board has been very supportive of tourism. My hope is they do something to address this issue now so it doesn’t happen again in the future.”
Already disbursed is $10,000 to Griggs & Maloney for a master tourism plan. That expense, said Eller, will be paid by the Chamber.