Controversy Over Chamber Decision

Controversy over Port McNeill's decision to make the Visitor's Information Center the responsibility of the Harbour Master

A decision by Town of Port McNeill council to take the chamber out of its Visitors’ Information Centre has created controversy.

Councillor Shelley Downey asked if it was possible that council have another meeting to discuss the decision, which makes management of the Visitors’ Information Centre the responsibility of the new Harbour Master.

“We have a good system in place.

“What is wrong with reinstating the funding (to the chamber) for the rest of the season.

“I feel that we do not have the town’s best interest at heart,” Downey said.

“To turn it over right now, you seem to know something that we don’t know about how this is going to operate,” Downey said.

“I understand that people are not happy, but the VIC (Visitor Information Centre) is our responsibility. I am confident that it can move forward” said Mayor Shirley Ackland, with perhaps a few minor hiccups.

“There’s hiccups and there’s a screw-up,” said Downey.

Downey’s concerns were echoed by about a half dozen citizens at a public meeting about the town’s five-year economic plan April 21.

Gaby Wickstrom sent a letter to council which was summarized by town Treasurer Dan Rodin.

Wickstrom was concerned by the town’s decision to not fund the chamber that has worked hard and has a long history of operating the visitors’ centre. She asked council to reconsider its decision.

Terry Eissfeldt questioned the reasoning behind putting someone in charge “who has not lived here, he will not live here and he does not know anything (about the area).

Mayor Shirley Ackland said the harbour master has every intention of living in this community.

“Is his wife moving here?” asked Eissfeldt, adding that if she is not, then he is not “moving” here.

Dave Nelson supported the town’s decision.

“I don’t think the chamber of commerce has the community’s interest at heart. I think you’ve done the right thing,” Nelson said.

“Council’s lack of communication with the chamber prior to this decision is the biggest problem I have. I think it’s crap,” said chamber Director Barry Foster.

“Port McNeill does not have a great history of supporting tourism,” said Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort founder Craig Murray.

“Who among you is going to run that centre effectively” in what is looking to be one of the biggest tourism years, asked Murray.

“How does the town think they are going to do a better job given the track record over the past 35 years,” said Murray.

Terrance Eissfeldt, who has lived in the community for over 25 years, said “this doesn’t seem like a smart business decision.”

“Cheryl (Jorgensen) was such an ambassador for this town,” said Gwen Also, adding that “this is not time for politics, it’s time for tourism.”