Representing the Greater Robinson Chamber of Commerce at the January Robinson city council meeting, Cindy Mosley made a donation on behalf of the chamber towards the Robinson City Park for the purpose of installing lights. Following this, she read a letter to the council from chamber president Morgan Whitely.
The chamber has been fundraising for the past several months and has made progress by raising half of the needed funds to erect lights at the new park. At a cost of $500 per light, 26 are needed. Each donor receives a plaque on a light-pole for their $500 donation. Mosley presented a check to the council for $6,500.
Mosley then read a letter to the council written by Whitely, who requested a $5,000 subsidy from the city in order to fund a part time marketing director position. Mosley later requested a monthly subsidy.
In the letter Whitely stated that they are requesting the money because the chamber is not a non-profit organization, restricting their access to state grants and makes them rely on private memberships to fund their operations.
The chamber, which has a meeting hall located at Youngblood Park, which is the little league sports complex, recently transferred ownership of the land to the little league so that the league would become eligible for grants.
He further stated that the chamber needs to recoup the costs of maintaining the property and that the city needs a chamber of commerce that is more than member only so that the organization can better engage businesses.
The council members in attendance seemed very receptive to the idea of helping the chamber, though there were disagreements on how and when to do so.
Mayor Bryan Ferguson led off by stating that the city’s budgets are set and there is no way the amount given could be $5,000.
City manager Robert Cervenka followed up by stating the budget is very tight and that no more than $2,000 could be given. He further stated that he would like to hear from the chamber during budget time.
Council member April Riddle requested that the council be provided with a finance report from the chamber detailing their financial activity before committing city money to it.
Cervenka then questioned Mosley asking what would happen if the city was unable to give them the money. Mosley replied that they would get the money somewhere else.
Council member Bert Echterling commented next stating that he believes it is time to get on board and support the chamber, and that as a former board member of the organization, what they mean by getting the money somewhere else is that it would come out of some members’ pockets.
Council member Warren Johnson remarked that he believes there may be a state law preventing the city from funding the chamber and this would need to be looked into. This was followed up by Cervenka and Mosley noting that other cities in the surrounding area are funding their local chambers of commerce. Upon further review by the Robinson Ringer staff, this is indeed the case as state law prohibits cities from subsidizing these entities. However, these cities are using service contracts to fund their chambers, generally describing the services as promoting tourism, among others.
Johnson further stated that he is interested in funding the chamber but would need to see tangible results. He also wants to wait until the budget process begins again before approving funding.
On the matter to not approve funding at this time for the Greater Robinson Chamber of Commerce, a motion was brought by Riddle. Typically when voting on a matter, vote are cast unanimously by council members, however this vote split the council 3-2 in favor of the motion to not fund the chamber. Those voting no were Ferguson and Jeremy Stivener. Voting yes were Riddle, Echterling and Johnson.
After the vote, Echterling asked Mosley to come back to February meeting so that the request can be revisited.