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Aurora officials weighing options on Convention and Visitors Bureau contract

Updated: January 7, 2014 6:46AM

AURORA — With the end of the current contract term approaching, Aurora officials confirmed this week that they have not yet signed a new agreement with the Aurora Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Chief of Staff Carie Anne Ergo said city officials are currently negotiating terms of a new contract with the Convention and Visitors Bureau. The current one-year contract expires at the end of this month.

“Right now, we’re in discussions with them,” she said. “We’re (also) exploring a number of options.”

Dale Berman, chairman of the Visitors Bureau board of directors, said the 2014 contract has been in the hands of Aurora officials for weeks.

To his knowledge, negotiations between the city and Visitors Bureau leaders are not ongoing, he said. Berman is also North Aurora village president.

“They have a contract before them to sign,” Berman said. “I’m just waiting on them.”

In fall 2012, the city brought several concerns to the Convention and Visitors Bureau leadership, according to Ergo. One of those concerns was a “loss of focus,” that the city was not receiving services equal to the amount of hotel tax dollars Aurora is committing to the organization, she said.

“The Aurora Convention and Visitors Bureau’s focus is no longer Aurora focused,” Ergo said. “That is concerning to us.”

The bureau represents 10 area communities: Aurora, Batavia, Big Rock, Hinckley, Montgomery, North Aurora, Plano, Sandwich, Sugar Grove and Yorkville.

Aurora officials also expressed concern about the Visitors Bureau’s leadership, Ergo said. In early November, Visitors Bureau leaders confirmed that Chris Hamilton, who served as the executive director of the bureau, was no longer employed with the organization. Hamilton’s employment ended Nov. 6, Berman said, and was “a mutual agreement” between the board’s executive committee and Hamilton.

In a late November meeting with the full Visitors Bureau board, Berman was pushed to provide an explanation for Hamilton’s departure from the executive director role.

“My response was that eventually the reason why would come out,” Berman said.

Hamilton has not responded to requests for comment.

In 2013, the city contributed $460,000 to the Visitors Bureau — $400,000 in pass-through hotel tax dollars, and $60,000 in grant form from gaming tax dollars. Since 2006, Aurora has contributed more than $450,000 to the organization annually.

“We want to make sure that (the hotel tax dollars) stay here in Aurora and attract visitors to Aurora,” Ergo said.

The 2013 agreement was a one-year contract. Previous agreements covered multiple years, according to Ergo.

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