County could soon have two tourism marketing websites
Since the demise of the Plumas County Visitors Bureau, local merchants and tourism providers have urged the county to fund a marketing website to help support their businesses.
Now it looks like the county could soon have two websites dedicated to attracting visitors.
Twenty-one companies responded to the county’s request for proposals to design a tourism marketing website for Plumas County.
At their meeting Tuesday, April 3, the county’s supervisors said they were surprised at the number of proposals they received. They said they plan to choose a winner at their April 17 meeting.
The winning bidder would get up to $7,500 from the county to design and maintain a website through the end of the fiscal year, June 30. The supervisors haven’t committed to funding a website next year because they anticipate another budget deficit.
However, one of the 21 applicants said last week it plans to run a marketing website without the county’s help.
Plumas Corporation, which owns the county’s plumascounty.org website, withdrew its request for county money.
The plumascounty.org site was maintained for years by the visitors bureau under the direction of Plumas Corporation. The visitors bureau shut down Jan. 17 after its county funding ran out.
Plumas Corporation Executive Director Greg O’Sullivan said Friday he would try to keep the site alive with private donations.
O’Sullivan said he withdrew Plumas Corporation’s bid for county funding because the nonprofit corporation would lose its rights to the site’s intellectual property by accepting the county’s $7,500.
“We just did not fit the county’s request for proposal,” O’Sullivan said. “We looked at the contract and we would be giving up the rights to the intellectual property — which is a huge asset developed over many years — just to operate the website for two months.
“Under those confines, we just couldn’t participate.”
O’Sullivan said he was encouraged by the willingness of county businesses and the public to put up their own money to support the website.
The money started coming in during an April 4 meeting in Quincy, attended by local merchants and the Quincy Chamber of Commerce representatives.
“I was surprised,” O’Sullivan said. “Within 15 minutes there were three checks on the table. We had $500 after the meeting.”
Valerie Nellor, owner of Ada’s Place cottages in Quincy, said she had collected $1,600 as of Friday, April 6. She said she had received pledges for more.
Most of the checks in Nellor’s envelope were for $100.
“We don’t want to create a hardship for people,” Nellor said. “We just want to get enough money to keep the thing operating.”
O’Sullivan estimated it would cost between $1,500 and $2,500 per month to operate the plumascounty.org site. He said that money would pay for a webmaster and keep the site updated with fresh content.
People familiar with the website’s operation said O’Sullivan’s cost estimates are on the high side.
The website is still online, but hasn’t been updated since the visitors bureau closed its doors.
O’Sullivan said jumpstarting the site would require approval from the Plumas Corporation board of directors.
“But the site is already there and ready to go,” O’Sullivan said. “We just have to flip the switch.”
Supervisor Jon Kennedy said Friday he wasn’t sure if Plumas Corporation’s decision would alter the county’s immediate plans to do its own marketing website.
He said the county has a responsibility to market tourism for the whole county.
The county’s general fund receives about $1 million in revenue annually from taxes collected by tourism-related businesses. Visitors pay a 9 percent transient occupancy tax (TOT) when they rent a room.
At their April 3 meeting, the supervisors said they planned to narrow the proposals for a new website down to five finalists by April 17.
Each supervisor said he or she would individually rank the proposals, with a preference given to local companies.
“I’ve already looked at the proposals,” Kennedy said. “And a lot of them are press packets (from companies outside the state).”