Visitors Bureau braces for impact from pandemic

MIAMI COUNTY — On Thursday, Miami County Visitors and Convention Bureau Executive Director Leiann Stewart met with the Miami County Commissioners during their work session, during which she discussed how the Visitors and Convention Bureau expects an impact due to the coronavirus and the state’s “Stay at Home” order.

Stewart said they have a number of shops and local businesses being “dramatically” affected by the virus and the state’s order to stay home.

“These past couple of weeks have been difficult for everyone,” Stewart said. “I think people have been really resilient.”

The Visitors and Convention Bureau gets the majority of its revenue from the county’s lodging tax. Stewart said their board “has been very intentional” to set aside emergency funds following previous times of uncertainty for their organization, such as following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the 2008 recession.

“This is obviously going to affect our organization greatly,” Stewart said.

Stewart said they are thinking about other avenues to raise funds, but she expects the travel and tourism industry to be one of the first industries to rebound following the end of the pandemic.

Stewart also informed the commissioners about the Visitors and Convention Bureau’s 2019 year-end revenue and expense numbers. The Visitors and Convention Bureau’s 2019 total revenue was approximately $522,000, with approximately $487,000 coming from just the county’s lodging tax revenue. The revenue coming from the lodging tax was up 4.8 percent from 2018. The Visitors and Convention Bureau’s 2019 expenses were approximately $483,000.

Stewart also said the 2019 Tour De Donut in Troy had approximately 2,988 cyclists, which was a 10 percent increase from 2018. The Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure (GOBA) is also expected to return to Miami County this year. Stewart said if it gets canceled due to the coronavirus, GOBA has already committed to coming back next year.

In other news:

The commissioners also authorized temporarily suspending water disconnections for non-payment on behalf of the Miami County Sanitary Engineering Department during the commissioners’ regular meeting on Thursday afternoon. The temporary suspension of water disconnections will remain in effect until May 31. The Sanitary Engineering Department will continue past due penalties of 10 percent, but the department will waive non-payment fees until May 31.

The commissioners also awarded two bridge replacement projects to Prestress Services Industries of Ohio, LLC in the amount of $268,800. The bridges to be replaced are the Harrison Street bridge No. 00.17, located in Concord Township 0.17 miles north of Atlantic Street, and the Markley Road bridge No. 2.10, located in Union Township 0.10 miles east of Range Line Road.

The commissioners also held separate work sessions Thursday morning with Transportation Manager Sarah Baker, Miami County 9-1-1 Communication Center Director Jeff Busch, and IT Director Matt Watkins.

Baker advised the Transit Department plans to use an aerosol disinfectant, supplied by the Miami County Sheriff’s Office, on their buses as an extra precaution due to the coronavirus. The sheriff’s office has already been fogging a number of their cruisers to disinfect them. Commissioner Greg Simmons also added later on Thursday the county has decreased the total number of inmates who are incarcerated in Miami County from 250 to 150 inmates.

Busch said the Communication Center has seen a 5 percent decrease in phone calls and dispatch calls for service due to the state’s “Stay at Home” order. He added they are, when applicable, asking people who call in and request either a squad and/or law enforcement for those callers to step outside of where they are at as a precaution for first responders.

“We have them step outside so the squad members don’t have to be in a confined space,” Busch said, adding they do the same for calls for service for law enforcement.

Watkins said the county’s Sysco software stopped a number of cyber attacks against the county’s network, particularly over 1,000 command-and-control attacks via phishing emails containing ransomware. Watkins said those cyber attacks were on or around March 13, the same time as when Governor Mike DeWine ordered schools to close.