Canton trustees agree to fund Canton Chamber of Commerce
BY ADAM ATKINSON
CANTON -- After several weeks of ongoing conversations between the village and the Canton Chamber of Commerce, the board of trustees has decided to pay the organization the $6,500 budgeted for the organization in the current year.
“We still have in our budget, the ability to pay, or the funding to pay this year for the chamber,” said Village Mayor Mike Dalton at the village board meeting held Nov. 18. The board was reviewing a request sent by the organization to the board last month to release the funding, and eventually approved the funding after some discussion.“That normally has just been a payment made,” Dalton said. “There has been discussion on it.”
The town is currently in the middle of discussions with the chamber on their portion of the funding to the organization.
Both municipalities supply the organization with funding. Municipal officials of both boards have been somewhat critical of the chamber’s activity level this year during the pandemic and there has been some discussion of withholding the normal funding allotments in light of that. Chamber representatives have attended board meetings over the last month to ask for the funding to continue, however board members have asked for itemized breakdowns of the chamber’s work over the last few months to justify the cost.
Chamber executive director Tammy Mackin attended a joint meeting of the boards earlier this month and listed several of the outreach efforts by her office over the last year.
At the village meeting Nov. 18, Village Trustee Anna Sorensen said that municipal officials had received the chamber’s letter which noted that they were “many months into their fiscal year.”
“I think I would like to say that really we are many fewer months into our fiscal year than they are, so there is a mismatch in terms of timing there,” she said. “We have been having ongoing discussions in order to try to understand how their ongoing, and their current efforts benefit the businesses in our community so we can see what value the taxpayers are getting for their money that we provide,” said Sorensen. “And I would say those conversations have not been altogether satisfactory.”
Sorensen added that she thinks that the board and the chamber should have had those particular conversations at village budgeting time.
She said that as a sign of the village’s desire to work with the chamber and not limit the organization, that the village should pay the chamber the money it has budgeted.
“But certainly the caveat to that is that we need to have a contract in place before our next budget is adopted,” Sorensen said. The trustee said the village does not have a contract with the organization for the year or a system of accountability for the funding relationship.
Village Trustee Carol Pynchon agreed with Sorensen. “I think the bottomline, what we really want, is to have a robust chamber of commerce that is supporting our local businesses which is needed especially now as much or more than ever,” Pynchon said.
Pynchon said there was “a real breakdown in expectations” of what the village expects the chamber to be doing to support local business. “I think we need a lot of clarity on what we expect, or what the public expects for our $6,500 investment, and to narrow this gap in our expectations,” Pynchon said. She added that according to correspondence from chamber officials and conversations between the organization and the municipalities, the chamber feels they are doing what is expected, while town and village officials don’t think the outreach is living up to expectations.
“And, I think that’s sort of on us for not being clear about ‘we will give you $6,500… we will invest $6,500 in you but these are things we expect from a chamber of commerce,’” she said.
Pynchon said both the village and the chamber need clear expectations for the village to best determine what they are willing to invest in the organization.
“I think a piece of that needs to be consistent and regular complete recording,” she said. Pynchon said that normally the village gives the organization $6,500 annually and that’s the end of it. The village has asked to be involved on the search committee to hire a new director and has requested other involvement but “was declined.” She said the village doesn’t receive regular reports from the organization about its activities. Pynchon said she would like to see regular reports and chamber attendance at village board meetings.
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