Board making changes

The White Pine County Tourism and Recreation Board held its meeting last week, and only two months into the new year the board is already moving forward with some new changes.

When it came to the board to approve staff to travel to different festivals and meetings, many of them were denied. The staff were approved to attend the Rural Round Up  from April 11-13 in Tonopah. Director Ed Spear was approved after much discussion to attend the Grand Circle Association Meeting March 3-4 at a cost of $886.28.

When it came time for approval on Spear to attend the First Review-Journal Travel Festival in Las Vegas on April 14, one day after the Rural Round Up, it was denied. The cost was $1,305, which included exhibitor space.

Staff member Lori Drew was denied travel for the two events she requested approval travel and per diem for. It was determined that the need for Drew to attend the Great Basin Heritage Area Partnership meeting was unnecessary due to other members from White Pine attending. The cost was $246.35 for one day. The other request was for Drew to attend a Storytelling Festival, March 23-26, in Delta, Fillmore, and Baker. The cost was $678. This was a festival that consisted of storytelling, music, food, films, art, exhibits, museums and Great Basin National Park tours.

Drew noted that many students from schools around the area were bussed in for the event.  It was determined that since other White Pine representatives were already planning on being in attendance, and several were storytellers for the festival Drew’s attendance was not needed.

Board member Caroline McIntosh questioned how many were in attendance at these events, and how many brochures and packets were given out that were useful?

“The whole point of our existence is to increase visitor nights in White Pine County,” she said. “I cant draw that correlation on any of these things, especially with utilizing a method that has gone bye bye.”

Chairman of the Board Steve Stork agreed and said, “I’d like to see us move towards an app where we can reduce the amount of paper we’re using. I’m sure we can get an app done for the fraction of a cost of what were spending on printing.”

Drew commented that when they attend these events, they are speaking to interested travelers, tourists and others, and their goal is to get people to come to Ely, and visit the train.

McIntosh questions where the materials were located on the website “I don’t see any of these things, and that’s how people connect with us. I don’t think we’re doing a good job as a board if we’re approving these things, and it just looks like were spending alot of money throwing a bunch of materials at people and hoping they come. It comes down to, are we filling the rooms night after night? “

As the meeting moved on, several agenda items focused on the director’s position. A new job description was created for the director position and approved unanimously. The decision to make the director position an at-will employee was also approved unanimously. The position has historically been a contract.

A contract that was a part of the meetings packet read that on March 23, 2000, the board selected Director (Ed Spear).  The term of the agreement was for a period of two years commencing the 1st day of April 2016, and ending on the 31st day of March, 2018.

The agreement was to pay the Director $128,003.20 with an annual cost of living increase effective April 1, 2016.  Insurance benefits were to be included.

The hours for the director were not to be more than 40 hours a week as needed and under other circumstances the director could work less than 40 hours per week.

The hours worked by the director per week was not material as long as the director provided the services herein to the satisfaction of the board.

According to the agreement, vacation time was 24 days and up to six weeks, could be accrued. The director could not take four consecutive weeks of vacation. and could carry over a maximum of six weeks vacation each year.  This agreement also included that the director could receive payment in lieu of vacation time not to exceed 160 hours per year.

A comparison study for Tourism and Director positions around Nevada and the Utah area closest to White Pine County revealed some wide differences in what the director for the White Pine Tourism and Rec Board is making compared to others.

For example, a director in St. George, Utah, has a salary of $85,000 a year, where there is a population of 156,00 people. Winnemucca’s director has a salary of $110,000 for a population of 17,000, Grand Junction Colorado, population of 150,000 has a director with a salary of $115,000. A comparison of salaries was made with officials in White Pine County such as the district attorney who has a salary of $119,000; the sheriff, $94,000; and county finance director’s salary of $95,000.

The director’s position has clearly been paid well above what many positions in this county are being paid. The board approved advertising for the new at-will position of director for the White Pine County Tourism and Rec Board. A pay scale was discussed and numbers of $65,000-70,000 a year were kicked around but no amount was solidified during the meeting. Spears contract is due to expire on March 31.

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  1. Gene Townsend, Colonel, USAF (Ret.) says:

    I am a former resident of Ely, graduating from WPHS in in 1961, and moving away in 1962 due to my parents moving to Las Vegas. I have enjoyed keeping up with events in my old home town by reading the Ely Times on the Internet. My wife Jeannie and I now live in San Antonio, TX. The March 2nd article “Board making changes” caught my eye. I was surprised that Ed Spear, Director of the White Pine County Tourism and Recreation department was paid $128,003.20 annually for a 40 hour week. Latest population statistics show that White Pine County has about 10 thousand residents. A salary of $128,003.20 would be a good salary for a department head in San Antonio–which has a population of more than 1.5 million, with about 2.5 million in its metro area. What is the average salary for a school teacher in White Pine County? Or, a nurse, or a police officer, or a fireman, or other first responders? They also work a lot more than a 40 hour week. Why would you pay $128,003.20 for a director of tourism and recreation–working a 40 hour week? This makes no sense to me. Why couldn’t you get a good, qualified person to work as director at a salary in keeping with the pay scale of your other public servants–and putting in the hours necessary to get the job done?

    Lastly, aren’t you quibbling on the per diem to be paid to Lori Drew to allow her to get out and press the flesh? You think you can do this with an AP? Yes, go ahead and design an AP. But, nothing beats going eye ball to eye ball to let people know about all the wonderful venues in White Pine County.

  2. So we have have a tourism director for our county of 9000 residents who earns 128K per year ?…I am still wondering if it is a misprint or if it is for real. Truly unbelievable. No wonder this county is always broke.
    Could someone please explain what Ed Spear has done to bring in even close to the amount of tourism Dollars needed to justify his salary. Is his position and his responsibilities worth more than that of the fire chief or the sheriff ? I’m sure Ed is a good guy and liked by many people but come on folks, 128K ? It smacks of cronyism . I’m happy to see that the board woke up and is taking steps to fix this problem.

  3. Gene Townsend, Colonel, USAF (Ret.) says:

    Followup question: Ed Spear was paid $128,003.20 annually for a 40 hour week. Was he paid time and a half or additional money for more than a 40 hour week? What was Ed Spear’s total salary compensation for the past year? What additional compensation did he receive? Was Ed Spear given an automobile, or an automobile allowance–and if so, how much? Was he given a cell phone for his use? What kind of a medical package did he receive for both him and his family? What if any other compensation did Ed Spear receive? When you add up all his compensation, what was the total?

  4. susanjJones says:

    4Star hotels, limo service….A round of drinks for everyone in the room.???? I wonder if an expense statement was ever put in front of the Tour and Rec board, after the trip was over. From what I DO KKNOW, the girls in the office did all the work and Ed ( as usual) took all the credit. I rode that golden goose for a long, long, long time. It’s about time someone shut him down and made him accountable

    • susanjJones says:

      He rode that golden goose.

      • Wheeler says:

        Oh, what the hell – it wasn’t all that long a go that a particular county bean sorter somehow managed to justify traveling to London in order to ‘get good rates’ on insurance, or so the story goes. Funny. I guess the phones to Europe were down that month. I do not know if we got a good rate, but I do know that someone got to travel to Europe. And as they say, ‘must be nice’.

        Sometimes, even if you can technically justify a thing, maybe you shouldn’t do that thing. Because it can be arrogant as hell and send the wrong message. (That’s right, everybody inclined to that sort of behavior go a head and look at your shoes for a bit, again).

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