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Short-term fix planned for tourism contract

Committee leans toward three-month extension before placing job out to bid

St. Helens Tourism Committee has not made a final recommendation concerning the job duties contained within the city's contract with its tourism director. But committee members are leaning toward a short-term solution that would extend the contract for another three months after it expires in July.

After that extension, the committee will put out a new request for proposals, seeking fresh applicants for the position. Current Tourism Director Amber Dennis would have to reapply for the position, with its newly outlined job requirements.

Dennis has expressed interest in continuing with her position as the city's tourism director. As a way of cutting costs, City Council in April chose not to extend her contract as the city's communications director, however.

Among Dennis' current duties are marketing city events and regional activities, buying advertising and fostering sponsorships for tourism activities. She is paid $40,000 for her city work.

Roni Bartlett, chair of the Tourism Committee, said the scope of the job will likely change with the next contract. 'Right now, we don't have that entirely dialed in,' she said.

Bartlett lamented the amount of scrutiny Dennis has received for her contract with the city, saying much of it has stemmed from disagreements among merchants about what duties Dennis should perform.

Some merchants and former committee members, both publicly or privately, have been critical of her performance. Last year, the Olde Towne Merchants Association opposed Dennis' contract extension.

In recent months, Dennis has garnered written endorsements from some merchants and past marketing sponsors, however.

The critics don't understand how complicated the director's job is, Bartlett said.

'There seems to be a lot of interest in the job,' Bartlett said. 'A lot of people think they can do this job. But once you get into it, you realize what it is. What you see on the surface is a pretty small part of it.'

No date is set for when the Tourism Committee will make its decision.