Tourism Barrie has recently hired at least two new team members and has funds earmarked in the budget to hire a new sponsorship coordinator.
Last week, it asked the city council for more money to hire a consultant to develop sports tourism at Sadlon Arena.
The Ward 7 Councillor Gary Harvey made a case on behalf of Tourism Barrie. It came just a few weeks after the city council passed the budget. During the budget many small items that benefit residents were cut.
“This literally just missed the cutoff for getting on the regular general committee agenda. Because I just brought to my attention very late on Wednesday,” Harvey said during the December 13 council meeting.
The director of economic and creative development Stephannie Ward Schlichter said the consultant would “look at what potential expansion could further drive sports tourism to the Sadlon Arena.
Mayor Lehman asked if the city has enough money to give to tourism Barrie for the new and only motions.
“Currently the MAT reserve has an estimated balance of $474,000,” Craig Millar, director of finance and treasurer of the city said. “I would say yes, there’s enough to cover this motion and the previous one.”
MAT or Municipal Accommodation Tax of four per cent was approved by the city council in 2019. It is applicable on accommodation for a continuous period of less than 30 nights provided by a hotel, motel or inn. Tourism Barrie receives 50% of the collected amount.
Councillor Mike McCann of Ward 10 said he supports bringing in more tourists to Barrie and asked about the need to hire a consultant.
“Over the last decade, we have not seen a lot of sports tourism coming to a city of our size,” Harvey said. “We’ve lost out to a lot of places like Thunder Bay and North Bay.” He said the events like these bring in $6 to 20 million to the city. He was told by Tourism Barrie, who selected the consultant, that “the particular consultant has quite a bit of experience in dealing with this exact situation in other municipalities.”
Tourism Barrie decided to go with the higher cost consultant. Councillor Keenan Aylwin who represents Ward 2 wanted to know why Tourism Barrie did not choose the low cost option and “the process for selecting these consultants.”
Harvey said the decision was made “between the executive director of Tourism Barrie, and senior management.”
Mayor Jeff Lehman opposed the motion. He said that during the recent budget the city cut smaller expenditures that benefit residents and he had a problem with giving another 45,000 dollars to the consultant. “Choosing the more expensive consultant and then asking the council to pay the bill. I would want more information before I was comfortable doing that.”
But the motion was passed by the divided council by six to five votes with councillors Natalie Harris, Sergio Morales, Gary Harvey, Barry Ward, Mike McCann and Ann-Marie Kungl supporting it.