Lynne Hermanson
Special to The Gardner News
Last month Gardner City Council asked the Gardner-Edgerton Chamber of Commerce to look at severing ties with Edgerton. After much discussion at their March 2 meeting Gardner eventually approved the contract as presented.
The proposed agreement is for one year, ending on Dec. 31, 2020. The proposed agreement would provide $35,000 for the chamber’s business services and $50,000 for tourism services. The $15,000 for recreation event promotion was pulled out of the agreement, because both parties agree that the city’s parks & recreation department and the communications manager will coordinate the marketing.
The funding for the tourism services was also reduced from $100,000 to $50,000 due to transient guest tax revenues coming in lower than expectations.
The proposed agreement sets the total amount of funding in 2020 for the chamber and additional tourism services at $85,000. Funding will come from the Economic Development Fund. The city shall pay the chamber the sum of $35,000 for business services, payable at the rate of $17,500 by Feb. 29, 2020 and $17,500 by Aug. 31, 2020.
The city shall pay the chamber the sum of $50,000 for tourism services, payable at the rate of $25,000 on the last day of the months of April and October,2020.
During the meeting, Jason Camis, chamber president and CEO, presented research findings
Camis said the chamber began in 1975 to serve Gardner and surrounding areas.
“We discusse serving two communities,” he said. “The board decided with the growth the communities are uniquely different.”
Camis said there is a challenge in serving both cities, and seperating would reduce potential conflicts.
The chamber board is dedicated to Gardner, but Gardner would have to bring additional funds, he said.
Camis said they would still continue to serve all their members and businesses in the state, especially for the upcoming year. The chamber would fulfill their contract with Edgerton and help grow support for Edgerton’s own chamber.
“We are still committed to the success of both business communities,” he said. “But the community aspect would be Gardner.”
Camis said he had talked to Don Roberts, Edgerton mayor, and possible separation would probably be addressed at the next Edgerton council meeting March 12.
“We are excited for the possibilities as Gardner grows,” Camis said. “It is in our best interest to serve Gardner, as we started as only serving Gardner, and now we are coming back.”
Camis said they would need more money shifted to cover rebranding of the chamber.
After a lengthy discussion of transferring $5,000 for rebranding, council members passed the agreement and distribution three to one with Mark Baldwin, council member, voting against.
The $5,000 is an additional fund agreement from $35,000 for member services to go towards rebranding efforts.
Camis said Edgerton hadn’t discussed the separation yet.
Randy Gregorcyk, council member, said he was concerned that right now the city doesn’t know what its niche is to draw people in to Gardner. He repeatedly said he was probably in the minority in wanting to transfer $25,000 from the tourism funds to the JCEDC for a study to analyze their tourism needs.
Baldwin proposed holding off in order to have a work session over the $50,000 tourism funds and hire a part time staff member to do research for the city perspective. “There are a lot of different moving pieces,” he said.
Steve Shute, mayor, said they couldn’t use the money to hire staff.
Camis said there was huge value in the EDC, and they needed to decide what their market was for the city. He said there were five amazing wedding venues in and around Gardner.
Camis said he wouldn’t be opposed to getting all the groups together for a work study session.
Gregorcyk asked if they could pass the $40,000 for the business services side of the contract and table the rest for a later vote.
Ryan Denk, city attorney, read the legality of the transient tax, and its specific use for economic development promotion.
Gregorcyk said a work session would bring everyone to the table, and they should also have a county representative.
Shute suggested striking out part two of the agreement.
Camis said he would be concerned about the summer’s upcoming air show. “A joint work session would be good,” he said. “But some money in the CVB would be good, as we want to invest in marketing for the air show.”
Camis said maybe they could come back with more details on how the money will be spent.
Shute said maybe they could get their fiscal ducks in a row. He said he wanted to make sure the chamber received the money they need for certain projects sooner than later.
Camis said they would possibly be available for a mid-April work session.
City council members suggested a work session for March 23rd before the April meeting so they could vote on it.
Tory Roberts, council member, said she thought it wasn’t a bad idea for a work session, but it seemed too last minute to totally revamp the contract. “We are running out of time this year,” she said. “We want to provide good business to the community.”
Gregorcyk said he was in the minority and didn’t want to belabor the decision.
Todd Winters, council member, asked Camis if all the money distribution had been planned out.
Camis said certain things are exact, but they didn’t know where they saw the CVB yet playing a role with the air show.
“Randy and I could have a sparring match for the $20,000,” he said. “It would be nice to have stability to know where we are moving forward too.”
Winters said he would rather approve the contract now to get through the year and then have a work session.
Gregorcyk rescinded his suggestion to split the tourism funds.
The contract passed as originally written.