Tourism is still in the throes of negotiating its new lease for the Indiana
Dunes Visitor Center with the National Park Service.
Lorelei Weimer reported at last week’s Tourism Board meeting that proposals
were still being sent back and forth between her and the Army Corps of
Engineers, which is negotiating the lease on behalf of the federal General
Services Administration. Red tape precludes Weimer from negotiating directly
Weimer has been
trying to negotiate an increase in the amount NPS contributes to the
operating costs of the Visitor Center on Ind. 49, which is a joint operation
of Dunes Tourism and NPS as outlined in a memorandum of understanding the
two entities agreed on when the new building was built. Both agencies gave
up separate, smaller visitor centers to share the one on Ind. 49.
The current lease
operates on a “three-bucket” system, according to Tourism Board Attorney
David Hollenbeck. NPS pays a base rent and a portion of operating expenses,
and contributes to a capital project fund. An increase in visitation due to
the Indiana Dunes gaining National Park status has necessitated a new
agreement where NPS pays more for operations, according to Weimer.
Thursday that the most recent offer on the table from the Army Corps of
Engineers was a three-year extension of the current lease with NPS paying a
base $83,000 in year one, $89,007 in year two, and $95,021 in year three.
Weimer said they remain closed off to the idea of a capital contribution.
Weimer came back
suggesting a three-year extension where NPS pays $85,009 in year one,
$91,013 in year two, and $97,016 in year three. Weimer said NPS should be
paying at least $93,000 per year, based on a recent market study of similar
facilities, so even in her proposal, Tourism is “subsidizing” NPS in years
one and two. Weimer also wants the MOU attached to the lease to ease the
process of future negotiations, since the partnership between Tourism and
NPS has caused some consternation among the federal agencies who have to
sign-off on the lease.
Hollenbeck were looking for approval to go ahead with an agreement before
the Board’s next meeting because the lease expires in November, but the
Board couldn’t act for lack of a quorum.
Richard Riley noted the Board’s grant committee has to meet soon anyway, and
suggested the Board could hold a special meeting that same day to give
Weimer and Hollenbeck approval. If the lease expires before a new agreement
is in place, NPS stops paying, but will pay back its missed share later.
In other business,
Weimer said Community Engagement Director Kailey Capuano has resigned
effective end of this year, with plans to relocate and attend graduate
school. Weimer is already looking for a replacement, who Capuano will train.
reported Dunes Tourism is excited to be a part of the commissioning of the
USS Indianapolis at Port of Indiana on Saturday, Oct. 26. Weimer said
Tourism has purchased Hoosier mini-bats with a special emblem to give to the
150-person crew and is securing transportation for special guests at the
event. Valparaiso Events has also agreed to provide 2,900 popcorn packets
for distribution. “They have cut off tickets because 12,000 people will
already be there that day. We’re excited to be a part of that,” Weimer said.