The state has once again picked the ski industry's marketing association to produce an annual winter travel planner for the Utah Travel Council, and an attorney for a local advertising agency said that's not fair.
State purchasing officials have scheduled a hearing Monday to consider the protest filed by Winborg & Winborg Advertising Inc. on the tentative award of the $60,000-plus annual project to Ski Utah over the next three years.One of the three state officials responsible for awarding the contract, Utah Travel Development Division Director Jay Woolley, is a non-voting member of the board of directors of Ski Utah's parent organization, the Utah Ski Association.
Woolley, who also serves on Ski Utah's marketing committee, said his ties to the association did not influence his decision and cited the close relationship the travel council has with the ski association.
"It's not a conflict. It's purely a cooperative effort," Woolley said. "We're one of the arms of their marketing, and they're one of the arms of our marketing."
Ski Utah has produced the guide to Utah ski resorts and related tourism services annually since 1974. The state purchases copies to mail to would-be visitors responding to the travel council's winter advertising campaign.
Until three years ago, when a local publisher expressed interest in competing for the project, the state always went to Ski Utah to buy the winter travel planners.
Ski Utah beat its competition for the project and was awarded a three-year contract. This year, the state had notified Ski Utah they would get another three-year contract. Then the protest was filed.
"In the traditional sense of bid-rigging, I don't think that's the scope. I think it's a question of the fairness of the proposal process," said attorney Bruce Cohne, who will represent the advertising agency at the hearing.
Neither Cohne nor the president of the advertising agency, James Winborg, were willing to discuss the case they plan to make at the hearing before the state's chief procurement officer.
At issue is the decision made by Woolley; Janice Carpenter, the state Travel Development Division's publications director; and Leo Koopmans, a state purchasing agent.
They were responsible for comparing the three responses received by the state to a request for proposals to produce the winter travel planner that was circulated to 85 companies in January.
Besides Ski Utah and the advertising agency, a proposal was also received from a Tennessee printer. The state makes only the bid chosen by the selection committee - in this case, Ski Utah - public.
According to the proposal, Ski Utah plans to print 425,000 copies of the winter travel planner. The cost to the state depends on how many of those copies are purchased.
The cost of 125,000 copies is quoted in the proposal at $59,875 and could go as high as $82,075 for 175,000 copies. Woolley said the travel council has budgeted only $55,000 for the purchase of 125,000 copies and will attempt to negotiate a lower price.
Raelene Davis, marketing director for the Utah Ski Association, said the organization would recover the rest of the $280,000 cost of printing and distributing all of the winter travel planners from the sale of advertising.
Davis said Ski Utah will continue to publish a winter ski planner even if the state no longer purchases copies. "That is our business," she said. "Most of what we do is get the ski planner out."