Earlier this month, Sandwich Mayor Rick Olson told City Council members he received a letter from Debak Vyas, owner of the Timber Creek Inn and Suites on Route 34, asking the city to withdraw its membership in the DeKalb County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
City Council members at that time were ready to vote on withdrawing their membership, but held off after considerable discussion.
As a bureau member, the city has been collecting and forwarding the proceeds of a 3 percent hotel bed tax to the bureau. The bureau, in turn, has used the revenues to help cover its costs for promoting tourism in the Sandwich area and the rest of DeKalb County.
Olson said Vyas, who lives in St. Louis, was unhappy that Timber Creek was not listed more prominently in a recent bureau tourism guide.
“It was a very difficult situation. We worked very hard to act as liaison between him [Vyas] and the organization,” he said.
“The funds must go to a certified program that works with the convention bureau. The owner of the hotel was not willing to go along with this. He was unhappy with the way it was listed in the guide, so he does not wants us to send them the money,” Olson said.
The city has received about $22,000 in tax revenues from the hotel. But the city cannot keep the money because it does not have an approved program with a tourism board, according to Olson.
“We can’t send that money to anybody else, so it will have to be returned,” he said.
Olson said the funds originally went to the Aurora Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, but Vyas was not happy with this arrangement, so the city switched to the DCCVB earlier this year.
Referring to the DCCVB, Olson said, “It was a work in progress. We just got started with it.”
“He [Vyas] claimed he was not benefiting when the city was with Aurora, and he was partially right. We had to be a squeaky wheel in those meetings,” Olson said.
Olson said the DCCVB officials prefer that Sandwich keep its membership with the bureau. He said he did not think Vyas gave the bureau a chance to get things going the way it should have been done.
“There’s nobody else in the immediate area, so our only alternative is to return the money and stop the 3 percent bed tax. Vyas has said he can get a program started by making a couple phone calls, and I told him to do so,” the mayor said.
The mayor said he wants council members to continue their discussions on the issue. He could not say when the council might vote to withdraw from the DCCVB.
“We’re not going to vote on it until we make up our minds on what we want. It would be senseless to vote and then have to change it again,” he said, adding that he would like all council members to be in agreement before they vote.