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Visitors Center director under fire

Commissioners question Hausmann's efforts


November 8, 2017

Brandon L. Summers

Cheyenne County Commissioners questioned the effectiveness of the Cheyenne County Visitors Center as its expenses increase and revenues decline. The center may be closed in the future, Hal Enevoldsen, visitors committee member, told Commissioners, to cut costs.

With expenses increasing for Cheyenne County Visitors Center, County Commissioners Monday questioned the effectiveness of its director, Heather Hausmann.

Promotions fund expenses have increased drastically, according to information provided by Diane Scott, county treasurer.

From July 2016 through June 2017, expenses totaled $240,056, a difference over its revenue of $63,454. It is the greatest difference between revenue and expenses over the previous four years combined.

Lodging tax dollars have declined, as well, Hal Enevoldsen, visitors committee member, explained to the commissioners.

"It's down everywhere," he said. "At best it's holding its own, but most places it's down. The visitors committee recognizes that fact."

In response to declining revenue and increasing expenses, the committee is looking at cutting back on print and reel ads, and considering the effectiveness of billboards.

"Since Heather's come on board we've moved more in the direction of digital marketing," Enevoldsen said. "It's a little easier to track the effectiveness of that, and we can see where our markets are."

A problem is outstanding contracts.

"What we've done in the past, we have contracts for, and we need to fulfill those contracts, so there's a shortfall this year," Enevoldsen said. "Revenue is going down, but, like with the signs, if we pay monthly rental for it, it's hard to get out of those contracts in the middle of the season."

Enevoldsen suggested Hausmann would benefit from budget training.

"She was a little green when she came into the job. She knows the marketing end of it, the graphics and the promotion," he said. "She made a few errors in judgment trying to pay things up front, which got us in a hole."

Addressing concerns about the center's operating hours, Enevoldsen said Hausmann is "gone from that office a lot."

"I have mentioned to her that since there is some concern that she's not there and there may be some trust issues about what she's doing off hours, maybe it would be good if she turned a log in to us, when she's gone from the visitor's center," he said.

Commissioner Philip Sanders said he would like to see such a log "just so we are aware where she's at."

The committee is also considering hiring another part-time employee for the center, starting at 15 hours per week.

"Quite frankly, after looking at what we would have to put into it, I don't know if we can justify it," Sanders said.

One part-time staff member, Warren McKnight, had his training and salary during the summer provided for by the state.

Enevoldsen asked to see details on expenses for the center's employees to make better informed decisions going into the future.

"We can only have Warren work so many hours, so if she's gone it may have to be closed. We understand. That's the trade-off," he said. "Or, we start cutting down on these signs on the highway."

He added, "We want to start working within that budget."

Commissioner Randal Miller suggested the committee get input from the marketing consultants hired by the visitors center this year.

"It's obvious from the numbers we've got that we don't have any more money to spend. So what would be the best bang for our buck," he said. "We've got to quit doing something to do something else."

The commissioners deciding against hiring another employee until more details could be gathered on the visitor center's expenses.


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