The White Pine County Tourism and Recreation Board held its meeting last week, and only two months into the new year the board is already moving forward with some new changes.

When it came to the board to approve staff to travel to different festivals and meetings, many of them were denied. The staff were approved to attend the Rural Round Up  from April 11-13 in Tonopah. Director Ed Spear was approved after much discussion to attend the Grand Circle Association Meeting March 3-4 at a cost of $886.28.

When it came time for approval on Spear to attend the First Review-Journal Travel Festival in Las Vegas on April 14, one day after the Rural Round Up, it was denied. The cost was $1,305, which included exhibitor space.

Staff member Lori Drew was denied travel for the two events she requested approval travel and per diem for. It was determined that the need for Drew to attend the Great Basin Heritage Area Partnership meeting was unnecessary due to other members from White Pine attending. The cost was $246.35 for one day. The other request was for Drew to attend a Storytelling Festival, March 23-26, in Delta, Fillmore, and Baker. The cost was $678. This was a festival that consisted of storytelling, music, food, films, art, exhibits, museums and Great Basin National Park tours.

Drew noted that many students from schools around the area were bussed in for the event.  It was determined that since other White Pine representatives were already planning on being in attendance, and several were storytellers for the festival Drew’s attendance was not needed.

Board member Caroline McIntosh questioned how many were in attendance at these events, and how many brochures and packets were given out that were useful?

“The whole point of our existence is to increase visitor nights in White Pine County,” she said. “I cant draw that correlation on any of these things, especially with utilizing a method that has gone bye bye.”

Chairman of the Board Steve Stork agreed and said, “I’d like to see us move towards an app where we can reduce the amount of paper we’re using. I’m sure we can get an app done for the fraction of a cost of what were spending on printing.”

Drew commented that when they attend these events, they are speaking to interested travelers, tourists and others, and their goal is to get people to come to Ely, and visit the train.

McIntosh questions where the materials were located on the website “I don’t see any of these things, and that’s how people connect with us. I don’t think we’re doing a good job as a board if we’re approving these things, and it just looks like were spending alot of money throwing a bunch of materials at people and hoping they come. It comes down to, are we filling the rooms night after night? “

As the meeting moved on, several agenda items focused on the director’s position. A new job description was created for the director position and approved unanimously. The decision to make the director position an at-will employee was also approved unanimously. The position has historically been a contract.

A contract that was a part of the meetings packet read that on March 23, 2000, the board selected Director (Ed Spear).  The term of the agreement was for a period of two years commencing the 1st day of April 2016, and ending on the 31st day of March, 2018.

The agreement was to pay the Director $128,003.20 with an annual cost of living increase effective April 1, 2016.  Insurance benefits were to be included.

The hours for the director were not to be more than 40 hours a week as needed and under other circumstances the director could work less than 40 hours per week.

The hours worked by the director per week was not material as long as the director provided the services herein to the satisfaction of the board.

According to the agreement, vacation time was 24 days and up to six weeks, could be accrued. The director could not take four consecutive weeks of vacation. and could carry over a maximum of six weeks vacation each year.  This agreement also included that the director could receive payment in lieu of vacation time not to exceed 160 hours per year.

A comparison study for Tourism and Director positions around Nevada and the Utah area closest to White Pine County revealed some wide differences in what the director for the White Pine Tourism and Rec Board is making compared to others.

For example, a director in St. George, Utah, has a salary of $85,000 a year, where there is a population of 156,00 people. Winnemucca’s director has a salary of $110,000 for a population of 17,000, Grand Junction Colorado, population of 150,000 has a director with a salary of $115,000. A comparison of salaries was made with officials in White Pine County such as the district attorney who has a salary of $119,000; the sheriff, $94,000; and county finance director’s salary of $95,000.

The director’s position has clearly been paid well above what many positions in this county are being paid. The board approved advertising for the new at-will position of director for the White Pine County Tourism and Rec Board. A pay scale was discussed and numbers of $65,000-70,000 a year were kicked around but no amount was solidified during the meeting. Spears contract is due to expire on March 31.