A reconstituted committee appointed to oversee the Muskogee Redevelopment Authority’s efforts to promote local tourism continued efforts this month to find a firm footing. 

The 11-member committee directed city and chamber staff to craft formal policies and procedures for three types of grants. The formal policies and procedures will be based upon informal practices and procedures previously used by the tourism committee. 

The move was prompted by what appeared to be confusion among some tourism committee members about the existence of policies and procedures for large special projects, small special projects and community support grants. Committee members had adopted in July “a written policy for what was already a practice” for large special projects, and a statement about the absence of “previous formal policies” may have been taken by some to mean no policy.

There also seemed to be a lack of understanding about what distinguished large special projects from small projects. Committee discussions focused on the amount of money that might be awarded for a project distinguished the two, but descriptions set out for each as part of informal policies previously used and the tourism director’s comments indicate it is something more. 

“A lot of it is based on the impact of the event and what it is going to bring,” Tourism Director Justin O’Neal said. “A large special project is something that is going to be that grand scale like Bassmaster tournaments that are broadcast all over ESPN or CBS Sports.”

O’Neal said small special projects are ones that “may still have a big impact on hotels and things like that,” but they “come in under the radar.” They don’t command the level of attention a large special project would and lack “the potential to bring awareness about Muskogee as a tourist destination.” 

O’Neal said the informal policies and procedures were created long before his his recent appointment as director, which came after the city councilors transferred hotel-motel tax revenue and tourism functions from the Muskogee City Council to the Redevelopment Authority. Committee members spent most of the first two months wrangling over a budget and policy goals. 

While informal policies have been in place and governed decisions for some time, City Attorney Roy Tucker said it is a “good idea” to formally adopt them. 

“As time progresses you will have board members who retire and new members are brought on,” Tucker said. “You don’t want someone at their first meeting, to have them faced with answering questions about information that exists but they’re not presented with it — having info available is always positive.” 

Tucker said because the committee is tasked with making decisions that involve financial accountability, they “should have authority to approve the guidelines” used to award grants. Publishing those guidelines on a website or making them publicly available, he said, “is always a good idea.”

City and chamber staff will present the proposed policies and procedures in October for committee review and adoption. 

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