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Chamber of Commerce’s finances assessed by council

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Roswell City Council passed an agreement with the Roswell Chamber of Commerce with a caveat from one councilor.

City Councilor Judy Stubbs moved to approve the “business retention and development services” agreement between the city of Roswell and Roswell Chamber of Commerce for the next three years with extension options. Councilor Barry Foster was the second. All 10 city councilors approved the agreement unanimously later in the evening.

Despite the unanimous vote, Councilors Jeanine Corn Best and George Peterson raised concerns over the chamber’s finances as emailed to the council earlier on April 11 before the full council meeting.

Councilor Stubbs said the council has spent time examining current agreements with other similar entities such as the chamber’s, Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and MainStreet Roswell. Stubbs said a “good boilerplate” has now been for service agreements after meeting with the various entities.

Councilor Foster drew attention that the city only contributes less than 20% of the chamber’s finances and said the agreements from similar entities were reviewed for the council to be informed on the actions and purposes of the various groups. According to the chamber’s budget, there is an additional $330,300 in revenue from membership dues, the county and other revenue streams.

Candace Purcella, the chamber’s executive director, presented a review of the chamber’s year to the full council on April 11. Purcella said the chamber has had a very busy year and on behalf of the chamber and board of directors asked for a continuation of the agreement and apologized for not being present last month where the council tabled the agreement.

Purcella stated the chamber is “about relationships, community and commerce” and works to “encourage business” and promote local business.

Purcella said the chamber receives $76,700 annually from the city of Roswell. Stubbs’ motion also included $3,300 in-kind services for the chamber’s Rise over Roswell Balloon Rally/Cinco de Mayo event, which begins on May 3.

Purcella said it is estimated that the chamber takes 21,000 calls per year, has 3,000 visitors at the chamber and provides 1,000 visitor packets for relocation and information. In addition, she explained the chamber offers complimentary networking services such as Mornings with the Mayor, Business After Hours, Roswell Chamber Redcoats calls and Lunch & Learns.

In the past year, Purcella said the chamber has hosted nine Business After Hours, 37 Redcoats calls, five Mornings with the Mayor, eight Lunch & Learns and seven other special events. She also listed the Leadership Roswell Program and volunteer Redcoats.

For some of these events, Purcella said the chamber takes great pride in not charging for those events in the way other chambers do. She touched on working with MainStreet Roswell, Chaves County Tourism, EDC and Roswell Hispano Chamber of Commerce. She also reminded the councilors about the two chambers’ collaborative upcoming event, the Rise over Roswell Balloon Rally and Cinco de Mayo.

Best said she had a “real, real problem” with the Hispano Chamber in the past, saying there was a riff between the two chambers.

“Throughout the years, we’ve seen the chamber do their own thing, the Hispano do their own thing, Roswell do their own thing,” Best said. “It’s time to unite. I want to see that. I’ll vote yes this time. If I’m in office next time, I’m really going to study this again when the contract comes around. So I want everybody to play in the same playpen, my personal opinion.”

For the chamber’s budget itself, Best pointed out what she called “red flags” with apparel costs, auto allowance, mileage, snack and beverage costs and others. She also said the chamber’s golf tournament and Washington D.C. trip were not projected out in the budget. Purcella responded to some of Best’s comments and answered some questions.

Best said she did see the chamber’s efforts, but didn’t personally see what the benefit of the city’s contribution of $76,700 returned to them. She said she was frustrated, not “comfortable” with the contract and noticed a depletion of memberships. In her assessment of the budget, Best said she was “kinda being petty here, but we’re putting up a lot of income.”

Before the final vote, Best said she hopes to see more improvement from the chamber and a “bang for our buck” for the city.

“Really high” salaries and “not much information” in the submitted budget were concerns raised by Councilor Peterson. In the chamber’s budget, $220,000 is listed for salaries annually with $11,604 spent for the month of March.

Despite supporting the chamber and its efforts, Councilor Jacob Roebuck said he was uncomfortable with the three-year term and wanted an option for the city to have a way out if something went “wrong.”

Councilor Steve Henderson commended the chamber on their well-attended and community-supported activities, saying they “far surpassed” past years, and was impressed with their recent legislative luncheon.

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.