EVANSTON — The discussion on resolutions that came toward the end of the Evanston City Council meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 6, proved to be thought provoking and challenging when a community member asked to respond to a particular resolution.
Resolution 20-79, which would authorize the acceptance of a proposal from XO Xtreme Marketing Group for digital display on the internet to promote economic development within the city of Evanston, was brought to the council by Evanston Community Development Director Rocco O’Neill.
O’Neill told the council the marketing group would digitally-target C-level executives of manufacturing and technology companies, specifically in Oregon and Washington. They will create six sizes of banner ads for optimal display capability across devices and placement variation on websites where the banners will be shown. They then monitor and optimize the campaign. The three-month campaign budget is $6,250 and their timeline is three to five days for completion of banners.
Evanston resident Eric Mander asked to address the council.
“Mayor, city council, I am totally against this, and this will take just a few minutes to explain why. As Rocco knows, I attend all of the economic development meetings. I’m not here to condemn anyone but just to give you a few facts. The first thing I want to ask is, ‘How many of you have even looked at this document?’” Mander asked, as he held a copy of a recent market study that gives guidance to local officials.
“It cost the city $65,000,” Mander continued. “Are you aware of it? With that being said, we need to reevaluate what we do at the (Uinta County) Economic Development Commission. Nineteen months ago, they spent $65,000 for the Thomas P. Miller marketing study, and in 19 months nothing has been done. That study listed about 10 different items we should be looking at and gave the name of the contact person at that firm, and the email and nothing has been done.”
Mander’s concerns didn’t end there, as he said even more taxpayer money has been spent unwisely.
“Then [economic development commission] and the city spent about another $17,000 on a webpage,” he said. “We had companies in Evanston and Uinta County that could have done it, but we went with Golden Shovel, an out-of-state company. In the two or three months the webpage has been out there, we have had zero hits. Then someone in Evanston bought the domain name ‘Wasatch Frontier’ that was recommended by the study, and now you can’t even use that. How did that happen?”
“Wasatch Frontier” is the name the market study concluded would be best to use to market the area, and Mander’s concern about its use — or lack thereof — was in reference to WasatchFrontier.com, which the economic development commission failed to purchase. It’s now owned by Welling ULU, LLC. O’Neill previously told the Herald that Paul Welling of Evanston purchased the site and tried to sell it to the city or county. O’Neill said he opted not to purchase the site from Welling, which would have been at a premium to taxpayers.
Mander said that instead of pushing through another money-wasting resolution, he has an alternative solution.
“I have a plan for you,” he told the city council. “Table this resolution and set up a group with Rocco as the chair and get Gary Welling, Mike Sellers, Mike Pexton and Dave Huggins. Have that group of five look at what has happened in 20 years and let them work on a marketing plan and get something done before spending any more money.”
Mayor Kent Williams said he doesn’t think Mander is representing the market study or officials’ efforts to improve the local economy fairly.
“I think there is a lot going on that hasn’t been recognized,” Williams said. “I disagree with the statement that nothing has happened in 19 months.” He then asked O’Neill if he would address Mander’s concerns.
“Yes, we could go 100 different ways with marketing,” O’Neill said. “We could spend $100,000 or we can spend $6,000. The development of the webpage wasn’t a result of the Thomas Miller study; we decided to do that. And we have done something. We did the Jump Start classes for entrepreneurs, and we’ve been targeting businesses in Oregon and Washington. There is no easy solution, no silver bullet for economic development. We just have to chip away at it with steps on the journey. There are only two of us — Mieke and me. We take every decision and weigh it carefully. I take my job very seriously and will continue to do that.”
In response to questions from council about how the marketing will work, O’Neill said the budget is for three months, and the tools can be moved around when they see which is most effective.
Councilman Evan Perkes said the Lodging Board has used a similar digital approach and found it very successful. He added it is such a competitive market in attracting businesses and it would be worth the small amount of $6,000 if it is successful.
The council then voted unanimously to approve the proposal of XO Xtreme Marketing Group for a digital display on the Internet for 3 months at the cost of $6,250.
First on the agenda at Tuesday’s meeting was a motion requested by Evanston Treasurer Trudy Lym to approve the bids received and accepted on the various items sold at a surplus sale on Sept. 30.
The motion was unanimously approved by a quorum of council members. Tim Lynch had requested an excused absence from the meeting.
Two permits requested by the Urban Renewal Agency/Evanston Main Street Program were approved simultaneously and included an open container permit for the annual Hunters’ Widows night on Thursday, Oct. 22, from 5-8 p.m. and a street closure permit for the annual downtown trick-or-treating event scheduled for Friday, Oct. 30, from 3:30-5:30 p.m.
URA Director Jane Law said, “I still have reservations about the trick or treat event but the downtown businesses were eager to sponsor it. We are working with Public Health as far as safety rules and are hoping that people will abide by them. They decided to do it on Friday as the children will have their costumes on from school and a lot of our Main Street businesses are closed on Saturday.”
Resolution 20-76 would authorize a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Union Pacific Railroad Company Old Timers Club No. 20, the local group, and the City of Evanston to provide tours of the city’s historic Roundhouse and Railyards property. It was brought before the council by Wayne Morrow, a member of the club.
Morrow said the members wanted something to do to help out the city and provide community service work and came up with the idea of leading the tours. He said if the council approved the MOU the Club would work with Madrid on a schedule, Monday through Friday, starting now until we see more winter weather, and then again in the spring.
The council unanimously approved the MOU with the Old Timers Club.
Evanston Senior Planner DuWayne Jacobsen asked for approval of Resolution 20-77 concerning the final plat for the Greensbrook addition, a subdivision located at 324 and 334 9th Street.
Jacobsen explained the Greensbrook addition (with George Randal Barker as the subdivider) proposes to split a parcel of land which is part of Lots 8, 9 and 10 into two lots. There is an existing residential fourplex and a single-family detached dwelling located on the parcel of land. The proposed split will place the fourplex on Lot 1 and the single-family dwelling on Lot 2 and will allow each building to be sold individually.
The lot split will place each principal building on its own lot, which will bring a condition of nonconformity due to lot size and sideyard encroachments into conformity with the Evanston City Code. The Board of Adjustment approved the variance request for lot size requirement and recommend approval of the Greensbrook addition. The council followed the recommendation and approved Resolution 20-77.
Jacobsen also asked for approval of Resolution 20-78, authorizing the final plat for the Evanston Valley Business Park addition, a subdivision within the City of Evanston.
The property, located off Hwy. 150, is part of Lot 1 of the Broken Circle Subdivision containing 4,819 acres, and the subdivider, DSC Investments out of Utah, plans to divide the area into five business lots in order to market them. Lot 6 will be the common area. Jacobsen said Lots 3, 4 and 5 already have buildings on them and a new imaging center is proposing to build on Lot 1 if approved. It was unanimously approved.
The last item on the agenda was Ordinance 20-14, which would authorize the operation of off-road recreation vehicles on city streets that have been designated as part of a Wyoming off-road vehicle recreational trail system.
Evanston Police Chief Jon Kirby and Mark Tesoro with Southwest Wyoming Off-road Trails (SWOT) addressed the council concerning the ordinance.
Kirby explained that state law allows for any off-road recreational vehicles of 1,100 pounds or less to be operated on city streets, and that the Evanston ordinance follows the state statute. He said SWOT representatives had been working on developing a trail system for recreational vehicles in Uinta County in order to increase tourism and bring financial benefits to the county.
Tesoro said he had checked with Mark Black at Cycle City and he said that most off-road vehicles are around 950 pounds or under but six-passenger vehicles could weigh up to 2,500 pounds.
Evanston City Attorney Dennis Boal said if the ordinance was approved on first reading, the council may want to discuss changing the weight limit allowed.
Tesoro said he and members of SWOT have been talking to chamber of commerce directors in different cities, Chris Lloyd at the Wyoming Outdoor Recreation Office, businesses, the Bureau of Land Management, Lincoln and Uinta County commissions, among others, and they now had up to 20 letters of support for the project.
“I did some research with the chamber director in Bear Lake and asked what percentage of the tourist traffic coming there is for boats versus ATVs,” Tesoro said. “The response was 50-50 and the trail system had been a fantastic financial boom for their community. This first reading of the ordinance is a first big step to get SWOT off the ground,” Tesoro said. The ordinance was unanimously approved.