The Kenai City Council is on the fence about whether or not the city should renew its marketing contract with an out-of-state firm that they say hasn’t performed well. Council members during their Wednesday night meeting postponed until next month a decision on a one-year contract extension with Diving Point, LLC.
That agency in 2019 signed a three-year contract with the City of Kenai to provide tourism and marketing services to promote the city. After the contract expired in 2022, the city agreed to extend the contract for another year. The city now has the option to extend the contract one more time, for another year.
Council members on Wednesday appeared to generally agree in their dissatisfaction with Divining Point, however, they disagreed about the best way to move forward. Some council members said the city should terminate the contract to avoid spending any more money with the firm, while others said maintaining the city’s marketing status quo would allow for a smoother transition.
If the extension is approved, Kenai City Manager Terry Eubank told council members that the city would pay significantly less for Divining Point’s services, the scope of which would also be reduced. Where the city included $70,300 for marketing services in last year’s budget, the city would set aside $50,500 this year.
Some council members felt, though, that even the reduced cost and scope of services was too much.
“We’re going to basically spend $50,000 of taxpayers’ money and give it to a firm in Texas that has not proven themselves worthy of this extension,” said Kenai Vice Mayor James Baisden.
Council member Teea Winger, who attended Wednesday’s meeting remotely, agreed, saying that Divining Point has not met key marks and that the city should pursue a new marketing contract.
“I feel like we need to be looking at other avenues,” Winger said. “I feel that they are not on point.”
Council members appeared to agree that more of the city’s marketing should shift to the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, although how quickly that shift should happen was debated.
Council member Alex Douthit, who also serves on the board of directors for the Kenai chamber, said the chamber may need some time before it takes on all of the city’s marketing. He cited the recent arrival of Samantha Springer, the chamber’s new executive director, and other staff changes as ways the organization is in a stage of transition.
“With the timing of everything that’s going on at the chamber and everybody just starting to get their feet wet a little bit over there, I think the best solution here would be to continue this at the base minimum reduced rate until we can focus in on what we want to do and write up a new bid,” Douthit said.
Eubank also said that, based on conversations he’s had with Springer, the chamber is currently “not interested” in taking on all of the city’s marketing.
Council members ultimately voted to postpone a decision on the contract extension until their next meeting on June 7. The additional time, the council said, will give the chamber the opportunity to prepare a formal response outlining the extent to which they would be able to take over the services currently provided by Divining Point.
Springer, who attended Wednesday’s council meeting, said that it would probably not be difficult for the chamber to take over the city’s existing marketing website, but that she would provide more information at the council’s next meeting.
“We are all new,” Springer said. “It is something that probably wouldn’t be as perfect as a marketing department would be right off the bat, but it is something that we could maintain if we needed to.”
Wednesday’s city council meeting can be streamed on the City of Kenai’s YouTube channel.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at firstname.lastname@example.org.