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County Defends $284,000 Tourism Website Deal and Commissioners Are Mollified

| May 29, 2018

County Administrator Craig Coffey has been on the defensive over the manner in which a proposed website contract was submitted to the county commission, and its costs. (© FlaglerLive)

County Administrator Craig Coffey has been on the defensive over the manner in which a proposed website contract was submitted to the county commission, and its costs. (© FlaglerLive)

With an apology for rushing the process last week, many defensive comments from County Administrator Craig Coffey, and 75 minutes’ worth of details from the tourism staff and its new vendor, Flagler County’s administration this morning defended the switch to a new tourism website as part of a four-year, $284,000 contract.

The commission was slated to approve that contract last week but commissioners delayed it and asked for this morning’s workshop because the proposal lacked detail, had not gone before the Tourist Development Council–the advisory board that oversees the county’s tourism marketing budget–and was slipped into the commission’s agenda with scant explanations or call for discussion.

The method mirrored the way the administration tried to slip through the use of Princess Place Preserve for an extreme-sport event three years ago, provoking a small revolt among commissioners, who eventually rejected the event from the preserve. Then as this morning, Tourism Director Matt Dun spoke of the stumble as a miscommunication.

Dunn apologized to commissioners this morning “for not providing you more information in the staff report” last Monday, he said. “That had to do with me and me trying to push this forward.” The reason: the current website vendor’s contract expires in September, and the tourism division is in a hurry to line up a replacement vendor so the tourism site is not running optimally through the period. As it is, the two vendors will overlap for several months, and both will get paid at the same time before the new, redesigned site is up early next year.

Ultimately the new vendor, Simpleview, will be charging the county almost as much money as the previous vendor: the difference is a matter of a few thousand dollars less in Simpleview’s favor (or a few thousand dollars more, when search-engine-optimization costs are included), but the advantage, county and Simpleview officials say, is a website produced by a company entirely dedicated to “destination” type websites. Two of Simpleview’s officials–Scott Stanislav, a senior director of account services, and Cara Frank, a marketing executive–Skyped in from the west coast to explain how their company can provide “always the most updated platform.”

And for the first time since any of the discussions began, Amy Lukasik, the tourism division’s marketing director, noted what would have seemed to be one of the more important reasons to switch–and a reason commissioners and the public would have understood instinctively: the new design will have a “mobile-first mentality,” she said. In other words, the site will be designed from a mobile-use perspective (60 percent of users navigate the site on their phone). It will also make it much easier for tourism staff to update content.

“I have never been to a successful meeting that started out with the party having to defend itself against snide remarks and stuff like that,” Commissioner Charlie Ericksen said. “We’ve taken the last 20, 30, 40 minutes defending ourselves to get to two intelligent people here on the screen, telling us what these new things are going to be. If you had started out and said, the contract is expiring, we have to go out to bid, that’s what it starts with. And bring up the things that the new website is going to do for us to make us even more successful than we are today. We’ve got a great thing going. We’re probably ahead of ourselves. That’s why we need a new system.”

And the new system will be “an extension of our advertising efforts,” Lukasik said. “we are trying to be seen more on Google pages, and investing more in SEO will help us with that.” SEO is the acronym for search-engine optimization: the county will pay $24,000 a year to optimize the website and a few articles a month. ( “Some people think they do SEO, but they do rudimentary SEO,” Coffey, who always drafts platoons of straw men when on the defensive, said, providing evidence neither about “some people” nor about what he means by “rudimentary.” Only last week he confessed his ignorance about SEO.)

With information of the sort provided by Lukasik, Dunn and the Simpleview officials, Commissioner O’Brien said the initial resistance was “maybe a misread on the communication upfront.” He said he had no issues with the numbers once he dug into them. “There’s really not that much of an increase in cost,” he said. “We wasted a lot of time here because of a simple miscommunication issue maybe.” He said the tourism division can also use commissioners better to their end: by ignoring Commissioner Greg Hansen, who chairs the Tourist Development Council, Dunn missed an opportunity to use Hansen as a “champion” once the issue came before the commission. (“Apparently I was there and I was not notified, I knew nothing about this deal,” Hansen said of TDC meetings.)

Hansen derisively referred to criticism of the deal (“90 percent of the criticism we received on this is not worth discussing,” he said) and pointed to a chart in a FlaglerLive article last week, outlining the $1-million costs of the county’s various websites over the past 9 years, as “good news,” saying it showed “how little it had cost us over 10 years.”

The commission is expected to approve the new contract with Simpleview at its June 4 meeting.

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19 Responses for “County Defends $284,000 Tourism Website Deal and Commissioners Are Mollified”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Typical – Who cares what people think, we’re going to go ahead anyway – “Damn the Torpedoes – Full Speed Ahead!”

  2. Grass Roots says:

    It is painful to see that the County is outsourcing our tourism website to a California company. Can you imagine what a contract that big would do for one of our local internet marketing companies? I also imagine that our local companies may know a bit more about what to market to people regarding the promotion of our County, beaches and restaurants/small businesses. If anyone from the Chamber or anyone from one of our great local marketing companies has been approached by the county or has submitted a bid to get this advertising contract, I would love for you to post here and explain how this process went and why you were rejected from receiving the contract. If you didn’t know about an open bid, I think that would be interesting to find out as well.

  3. mark101 says:

    Quote from article l I find interesting . Commissioner Charlie Ericksen said “:” I have never been to a successful meeting that started out with the party having to defend itself against snide remarks and stuff like that,” “,

    well Mr Commissioner maybe its just the right time that you as a representative of the people need to clearly explain the purchase of projects using the monies you obtain from the people that put you in office. Maybe the people have had enough of this cowboy spending the county has been doing,.

  4. Paul says:

    This still wreaks of political hypocrisy. The website is completely self-serving, check out the monthly calendar to see the farmers’s market …. and no ” real” tourist activity. No one person has given a legitimate reason for even the existence of the current website.

    Let the Chamber of Commerce produce a tourism program and website if their is even a need for one.

    County Commissioners should be embarrassed by the existing website and at some point start being frugal with our tax payer money. Are we really fooled by the need for a mobile application??

  5. atilla says:

    Coffey has the spineless commissioners wrapped around his finger. I think it’s his middle finger which uses to wave to the citizens of Flagler County.

  6. tulip says:

    It almost seems like some “higher ups” have friends in the website business and other ventures that would benefit from this farce and the higher ups will benefit, not the citizens. Ever since Dunn came on board of the TDC, he and Coffey have become good partners in finding ways to see to it that the TDC gets lots and lots of money. They lie, cover for each other and get what they want. The only two on the BOCC that are worthy is Obrien and Sullivan. They seem to get outvoted a lot. Sounds like the same kind of clique Palm Coast has.

    They don’t even hire locally. Hypocrites

  7. Stretchem says:

    This deal was done months ago, they’ll just do a little damage control and move on as swiftly as possible and hope folks forget by the next appearance at the polls.

    Good job Flagler Live. Be sure to remind us in the next election cycle.

  8. PC Citizen says:

    Coffey & Dunn……vampires sucking Palm Coast dry !

  9. gmath55 says:

    Anything coming from California can’t be good.

  10. Lou says:

    All that fun travel to California to interact with this service provider.

  11. Stretchem says:

    I have to cycle back into these comments after reading the pathetic, clearly biased article written at the observer:

    Kudos once again to Flagler Live for having actual reporters and actual writers with at least a minimal capacity for effective journalism.

    The Palm Coast Observer is simply pathetic. My ad dollars will be with Flagler Live!

  12. Anonymous says:

    Did any of you show up at the meeting today to speak? Doesn’t sounds like it. Maybe you should invest your time and speak up at a commission meeting. Expressing your comments here evidently is not making any difference to the commissioners.

  13. Anonymous says:

    The “Swamp Monster” continues to eat up our Tax Dollers! Use your Vote to Drain the SWAMP!

  14. Charlie says:

    Never trust a man with beady little eyes.

  15. Anonymous says:

    do you want to join us ?

  16. Joe says:

    @Anonymous, I always thought that’s why we elect a commissioner, you know, to represent us when your not there, I guess your right, they only represent themselves!

  17. Paul says:

    The Flagler County Tourist Development Council 17-18 approved Budget reflects approved revenues of $2,500,000. ( up $500,000 from 16-17 ) .

    Staff of 5.5 – FT Marketing Manager, FT Marketing Assistant, Pt Receptionship, FT Adm Assistant, FT Development Manager, FT Development Director.

    Reflects a Director and two Managers for a County Tourism Program that requests additional funding for a contract website company in California…. What is wrong with the utilizing the existing County website infrastructure or minimally a local website hosting comp[ampany.

    Is the website really necessary at all and the idea of needing the ability to make changes from mobile locations in ludicrous..

  18. Anonymous says:

    C R O O K S!!!!!!! Misfeasance at it’s best.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Where are so many people getting California from regarding the location of the vendor??? I just googled “Simpleview websites” and the business is based in Tucson, Arizona.

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