Council Inks Two-Year Contract For Visitors Guide

OCEAN CITY – The Mayor and City Council changed direction and compromised on a two-year contract with the Chamber of Commerce in producing the Sea for Yourself Visitor Guide.

The 2011 Sea For Yourself Visitor Guide has been completed and is available. In the past, the guide has been a combined effort between the Town of Ocean City and the Ocean City of Commerce. The contract presented asked the city for financial support only.

John Gehrig, past president of the Chamber of Commerce, approached the Mayor and Council on Tuesday, presenting a three-year contract to publish the guide.

According to the contract, the chamber is responsible for ad sales, content, design, printing and distribution of the guide and all costs that go along with it.

The town of Ocean City is agreeing to purchase a two-page spread at $15,000 per year for a three-year period, which will be used as advertisement space. The town is also responsible for mailing the guide via first class mail to all phone requests and on an as needed basis at the town’s expense. The town will also supply the chamber with mailing address information for all other requests, to be mailed third-class mail. The chamber will cover those costs and charge the town for those services.

Councilman Brent Ashley didn’t feel comfortable approving the guide that had already been published.

“We’re being asked to approve this and it’s already in publication?,” Ashley inquired.

Ashley also did not approve of the magazine’s enhancement in size. It now weighs more, which will cost the town more money to mail.

“This is too heavy for first class mail,” Ashley said. “This would have to go by priority mail, which would double the cost from what the taxpayers paid last year.”

Ashley’s point was that the cost to mail the guides last year was around $7,500, and this year it would cost the town around $15,000.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Melanie Pursel said that for the most part the guides would be mailed third class. The only reason the guide would have to be mailed first class, or priority mail, is if someone calls needing the guide immediately.

“Occasionally it makes since and that is only occasionally,” she said.

Another issue Ashley asserted was at one point the idea was to remove the town’s financial responsibility from the guide completely.

Gehrig explained that a few years ago the town produced the Sea For Yourself guide and the chamber published a separate guide. Then the town and chamber combined efforts and produced one magazine.

In the presented contract, the chamber will handle all production, reducing the town’s responsibility from production to just a financial responsibility.

“The city employees wont even have to touch this thing as far as the development and production goes,” Gehrig said. “We’re just asking for continuing financial support from the city.”

Gehrig pointed out that the value of the $15,000 the town would pay is put toward an advertising opportunity.

“I’m wearing the taxpayers hat here,” Ashley said. “It doesn’t benefit the taxpayers to get into a long-term commitment with this.”

Mayor Rick Meehan stepped in and said that he felt the town and the chamber were moving in the right direction by combining their efforts in producing the guide. When there were separate productions, businesses in town were paying for two different guides.

“They [businesses] are our partners,” Meehan said. “It has helped to work that relationship where together we can do more than we can do separately.”

Meehan also asserted that the guide creates one universal marketing piece, which cut costs for the town and the businesses.

There has been 250,000 guides published and they are being distributed throughout the entire mid-Atlantic region at this time.

Since the new guide has already been printed, Councilman Joe Hall wanted to confirm the town’s end of the bargain. He made a motion to commit to the contract for this year, the town will pay their financial responsibility of $15,000 and the future cost to the town will be discussed during budget time this spring.

Council members Mary Knight and Doug Cymek agreed to go with the three-year contract.

Cymek pointed out that by next year costs could increase and the town could face more than a $15,000 cost for advertising.

“Going with three years we lock that rate in, so potentially there’s a savings,” Cymek said.

Council President Jim Hall threw out a word out that the council hasn’t heard in awhile and asked if they would consider a “compromise” and go with a two-year contract.

“Just to show I am a common ground kind of guy, I’ll vote for two years,” Ashley said.

Joe Hall amended his motion to accept the presented contract as a two-year commitment and the council voted unanimously.