The village of Bradley announced last week it is ending its ties with the Kankakee County Convention and Visitors Bureau when the current intergovernmental agreement expires in 2024.
The village’s representative on the CVB board of directors, Jamie Boyd, announced the news at the CVB’s monthly board of directors meeting Jan. 18.
“The mayor [Mike Watson] has reached out to me … to let you know today that whatever shot we had at a future with this organization is over,” Boyd said in remarks that lasted approximately 10 minutes.
“There won’t be a going forward with the Kankakee County Convention and Visitors Bureau at the end of this current intergovernmental agreement that involves the village of Bradley.”
Boyd said Bradley would entertain continuing but only if the group was made up of taxing bodies.
“It has been made clear that this organization has no respect for the village of Bradley, has no respect for what the village of Bradley brings to this organization or to the county,” Boyd said.
Also last week, Bourbonnais Township Park District commissioners decided to rescind its request for funding for the Diamond Point Complex turf fields project from the CVB and informed the CVB of the decision.
The Kankakee County Convention and Visitors Bureau is a non-taxing organization. It receives its funding from the county’s hotel sales tax. Bradley is home to nine of 16 hotels in the county.
Bradley annually pumps into the tourism agency budget some $500,000, which represents about 60% of local taxes going toward the agency.
The CVB board of directors is made up of representatives from Kankakee, Bourbonnais, Bradley, Manteno, Momence, Kankakee County, Kankakee Valley Park District, Bourbonnais Township Park District and Kankakee County Lodging Association.
The CVB submitted a proposal in writing in December to each of the local governmental units for a fourth extension of the organization’s agreement with Kankakee, Bourbonnais, Bradley, Manteno, Momence and Kankakee County for 10 years — the current five-year agreement runs through June 30, 2024.
The agreement would have the same terms and conditions that currently exist.
If the proposal was agreed upon by all parties, the CVB would agree to subsidize the Bourbonnais Township Park District Diamond Point Complex project up to $3.2 million to replace dirt infields with turf.
Each local governmental unit in the intergovernmental agreement would get a 20% rebate of the hotel tax collected in their own municipality.
The proposal would have also amended CVB’s bylaws to give the Kankakee County Lodging Association a second appointee to the board of directors.
CVB AND BRADLEY MET
CVB Executive Director Nicole Gavin and CVB Board President Laurie Cyr met with Watson last month to discuss the proposal.
Boyd was not a part of that meeting. He said he was out of town.
Boyd said he was told by Watson that during that meeting, he asked Gavin and Cyr to make another presentation to the board.
Boyd said last week that a second presentation never took place.
However, at the meeting with Cyr and Gavin, Watson said Bradley would agree to the proposal but two conditions needed to happen beforehand.
Boyd said during his remarks at last Wednesday’s CVB board meeting that the first condition would be Bradley having full control over the hotel tax revenue generated within the village of Bradley, not the county.
“That would also give us the opportunity to have all of our income, at least from the village of Bradley, fully accountable to the public, fully transparent and subject to FOIA, which currently no finances from this organization are,” Boyd said.
“The other thing the mayor requested [is] the village get a seat on the executive committee,” he continued. “Most of the finances and ability to run this organization comes from the village.”
Currently, Boyd is not a member of the CVB’s five-member executive committee. The bulk of the organization’s plans are hammered out within the executive committee.
Cyr said the CVB’s proposal in the letter was a way to begin the process of a new intergovernmental agreement.
“We submitted an offer as a starting point for negotiations. We needed to formally start the negotiations at a point,” Cyr said in a text message.
“The offer may not have been what was discussed in the meeting with Bradley, but what the board decided was the best offer in the best interest of the organization. It is our job to support the organization.”
Boyd said the village, Watson and the Bradley trustees have tried working with the CVB and its directors. But now it was time for the village to move forward by itself.
“Your actions are clear. In the time I have been on this board, this organization has received a significant amount of income from the village of Bradley and not spent one penny in the village of Bradley,” Boyd said.
“The CVB uses Bradley’s funding but attempts to diminish the village of Bradley to the rest of the county and to the future of the county,” Boyd said.
“You do things here [in Kankakee]. You do things in Bourbonnais. And you are happy with your doughnut, with Bradley being your hole,” Boyd said.
“The village of Bradley is moving forward,” he continued. “The village of Bradley will be the light that guides the county of Kankakee into the next several decades.
“We want to do that with everybody, but not under terms that minimize the impact and the value of the village of Bradley to the rest of the community.”
Bradley’s participation in the CVB has been at issue since the existing contract was signed in late April 2019 just before then-Mayor Bruce Adams resigned as mayor.
After the resignation of Adams, Watson became the village’s interim mayor. Under Watson’s leadership, the Bradley board voted 4-3 to cancel the village’s intergovernmental agreement with the CVB.
However, the CVB filed suit shortly after that action. The suit stated the village board acted improperly and could not overturn its original vote.
After a lengthy court battle, the CVB’s suit was upheld, and Bradley remained tied to the 2019 agreement.
DIAMOND POINT COMPLEX
In July, Bourbonnais Township Park District officials proposed the CVB, Kankakee County and the villages of Bradley and Bourbonnais help fund a project to replace the infields of the complex’s ball fields with turf.
All four government bodies receive sales tax money brought in by the tournaments.
BTPD proposed that the CVB donate $1.5 million toward the project, Kankakee County $500,000 and Bradley and Bourbonnais each donate $125,000.
BTPD officials estimate those tournaments pump $6 million annually into the county’s economy.
However, BTPD officials said the complex has cost the district and its taxpayers more than $7 million since its purchase in 2010.
By installing turf, BTPD officials said it would help cut the district’s $250,000 deficit annually for maintaining the facility and paying the utilities.
Bradley officials had been the only group out of the four governments to pledge to support the turf project until the CVB’s recent proposal.
On Jan. 16, BTPD commissioners decided to stop moving forward with the proposal.
BTPD Executive Director Ed Piatt sent a letter informing the CVB of the decision.
“After having detailed conversations with our board, and discussing future plans, we have determined that we are respectfully withdrawing our request for funding from your organization,” Piatt said in the letter.
“We will continue to seek leasing opportunities for the ball fields and continue and increase recreational opportunities for our district residents.”
Piatt’s letter went on to thank the CVB for their alternative funding to help bring enhanced recreational and tourism activities into the county.
“Our organization is committed to remaining a regional partner for economic development and tourism opportunities with our regional partners in Kankakee County,” Piatt said in the letter.
The CVB’s Gavin attended the park board’s Jan. 16 meeting. She said she addressed the board about where things stood with the proposal.
Gavin and Cyr said they were surprised by BTPD’s decision.
The proposal was on the CVB’s agenda for Jan. 18’s meeting.
When asked by Cyr if Piatt wanted to discuss the recent letter and decision, Piatt said the letter would suffice.