A consultant hired to analyze the market position of the Hermiston Conference Center has recommended that the city modify its rates to give the same price to nonprofit, public and private events at the center.
The recommendation was one of several in a report by J Robertson and Company presented to the city council Monday. The city paid about $10,000 for the analysis in anticipation of its plans to take over management of the Hermiston Conference Center in January.
Sara Singer told the council that the transition provides “an opportunity to make some improvements and put some new policies in place.” The report recommended that the city review policies for the conference center and update them where needed, including using a single set of rates and policies for all users. J Robertson and Company gathered rate comparisons for Hermiston venues including the conference center, Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center, Armory, Oxford Suites and Maxwell Event Center, as well as the Port of Morrow in Boardman and Pendleton Convention Center.
The report recommends that the information be used to “establish rates that are competitive with market rates, maximize service cost recovery, and are consistent with the community’s philosophy on providing cultural and recreational services to the community.”
Councilor Jackie Myers she wouldn’t want the city to create a rate structure that discourages groups from booking the center, but it would also be hard to have to make a separate decision on every single event. Mark Morgan, assistant city manager, said a single rate would likely mean a cheaper price for private events than in the past but a more expensive rate than nonprofits are used to.
Parks and recreation director Larry Fetter said the department has always determined pricing by whether the user is a Hermiston resident or non-resident.
The report also recommended using the parks and recreation department’s online booking system to schedule events at the conference center and move all booking and information about the center onto a page on the city’s website. To maximize use of the building, it recommended evaluating the cost of room dividers for the large central room that would allow multiple events to take place at the same time.
City Manager Byron Smith said the city had not yet looked into dividers but it was something he felt the city should explore.
The report’s other three recommendations for the Hermiston Conference Center were to use the center’s storage space for recreation equipment, have a city staff member or “trained building monitor” on site during all events, and research the cost of providing janitorial and maintenance in-house instead of through a contract.
In recognition of the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center’s effects on the conference center, the report also offered three recommendations for EOTEC: consider providing maintenance and janitorial services in-house, create a marketing plan and add more signs directing visitors to the facility. The city and Umatilla County share ownership and operational responsibility for the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center.
The report also listed the priorities for events at both centers based on feedback from staff. For the Hermiston Conference Center, priorities were listed as parks and recreation events, chamber of commerce events, private rentals and public events. For EOTEC, priorities are trade shows, regional events, the Umatilla County Fair, outdoor events and events with more than 300 people.
The city council adopted the report during its regular meeting Monday but is not bound by any of the recommendations.
Contact Jade McDowell at email@example.com or 541-564-4536.