Due to concerns with a lack of clarity and in an attempt for more transparency, Oakdale City Manager Bryan Whitemyer asked the city council Monday night, Oct. 5 to consider amending an ordinance covering the Oakdale Tourism Business Improvement District.
Whitemyer explained that the current ordinance restricts term limits of the seven members on the board, but with four of the seven as individuals stipulated from the lodging industry, and with only five lodging establishments in town, Whitemyer recommended removing the term limits statute.
“With only so many hotel owners in town, it seemed difficult to meet,” Whitemyer said.
Language was also added to the ordinance that requires the OTBID to present a preliminary budget to the council in October of each year and then to follow up in April with its actual budget and final budget.
Finally, Whitemyer said the new ordinance would mandate that all meetings were noticed in conjunction with the Brown Act.
“Our goal is to make sure the public is aware of all our (the city’s) activities,” Whitemyer said.
The proposed changes come after certain OTBID discrepancies were brought to light over the last two years.
In 2013 The Leader reported that the OTBID and Oakdale Tourism and Visitors Bureau (OTVB), an arm of the OTBID, had not done any timely financial reporting as required. After the city hired a private accountant last year to review the bureau’s books, the council was told that the group’s budget wasn’t “as clean” as the accountant would have liked.
In July 2015 The Leader pointed out that the BID had held meetings in 2014 and 2015 without any Brown Act notifications, including hosting one meeting in 2014 at Papapolloni’s Restaurant, where public funds were suspected of buying participants their meals.
At that time Whitemyer said some changes and possibly training to the members were in order.
On Monday, Councilman Tom Dunlop asked Whitemyer if, when the OTBID presents its budget, that the council would have the opportunity to accept or reject their proposal.
Whitemyer said as with any budget brought before them, the council would have the opportunity to accept or reject the item.
During public discussion, OTBID board member Barbara Torres inquired about the term “boundaries of the district” which the ordinance defined as the district’s area of responsibility.
City attorney Tom Hallinan advised that it basically meant the city limits of Oakdale.
Torres asked the council to consider changing the term to “sphere of influence” since some of the items that OTBID promotes – Oakdale Cheese Factory, Knights Ferry, river tours – are located outside the city but still benefit tourism into Oakdale.
Hallinan recommended no change in the wording.
After OTVB Chairman Has Panchal updated the council on some of last year’s events, Pam Dumas, administrator for OTVB, told the council about her vision for an Oakdale Visitors Center where the OTVB could be housed at River Road Plaza located at River Road and Highway 120.
Dumas said her plans would be to have tour busses stop and city vouchers and coupons to be provided to encourage shopping in Oakdale. In addition to their offices being at the location, Dumas added that a gift shop would also be on sight.
Hallinan advised the council that the location proposed by Dumas was outside the city limits and may not fall within the law that required city meetings to be held within the city.
Dunlop also questioned the location, stating he did not understand how the City of Oakdale could fund a location outside the city that had a gift shop that would potentially generate sales tax revenue that would not go to the city, but the county.
The council moved to go forward with changing the ordinance with a public hearing at a later date.
After the meeting, when asked about a city-funded location outside the city, Dunlop declined to comment
“It’s only someone’s idea,” Whitemyer said, when asked.
The Oakdale BID was established in June 2008 along with a 7 percent room tax charged by hotels and motels on every room rented. The purpose at the time was “to promote tourism, market conventions, trade shows and sporting events that benefit local tourism and the lodging industry including to market the Business Improvement District interests to the travel industry.”