Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce requests a $179,000 budget amendment
The Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce requested an amendment to their budget at the Thursday, October 22 Chelan City Council meeting for a total of $179,000.
City Finance Director Cheryl Grant explained that the City had just received an invoice for $31,000 to be paid towards the ongoing marketing program. The Chamber of Commerce currently has $45,000 in their budget to the end of the year. Once the $31,000 is paid, the Chamber’s remaining budget will be reduced to $14,000.
Grant explained to the Council that the $179,000 budget amendment includes a request for $103,000 that was spent for advertising and marketing to bring visitors back to Chelan after the fire and smoke events. An additional $76,000 was requested for the Chamber’s base budget to help them get through the rest of the year. This would leave the Chamber approximately $30,000 a month for the next three months.
City Council members were not amused with this request. Councilman Guy Harper said, “I’m really concerned. Each department budgets each year, and I think we should have him (Executive Director of the Chamber Michael Steele was absent from the meeting) here to discuss that amendment.”
Councilman Cameron Morehouse said the request was “quite disturbing. It looks to me to be a total over reach,” he said.
The Chamber had budgeted $530,000 to be used from the three percent tax money for 2015. “The Port of Chelan County gave them an additional $50,000,” said Morehouse. Regarding the $103,000 they spent in addition to the $485,000 already spent from their budget, Morehouse said, “They didn’t even put any tracking on any of this marketing.”
Councilwoman Erin McCardle said that tracking what marketing and advertising is doing is very difficult. In defense of the $103,000 McCardle said, “You don’t understand the panic our businesses had with three weeks of fire and smoke driving visitors away.” Morehouse replied that today’s social media and the web cams could have been utilized to get the word out to bring people back.
Councilman Ben Higgins responded by saying he felt the $103,000 “was the most important advertising we spent all year long.” McCardle said that people were still calling about smoke in the Lake Chelan Valley. Councilman Mike Cooney remarked that Higgins comment was right on about the need to spend that money.
Morehouse stated he was more upset about the request for an additional $76,000 for the base budget. “You are two and half months short. I can’t believe they don’t know that. Somebody should be fired. How can they not live on $50,000?”
Les Cooper, president of the Chamber, was in the crowd. “I think you have a complete lack of understanding of how much advertising and marketing costs,” he retorted.
Mayor Bob Goedde stated that the major television stations called and asked if they could do positive news reports after the fires. “I know we couldn’t predict they’d do that, but don’t take all the credit for the recovery,” he told Cooper.
Cooper said that the Chamber is spending a lot more than $530,000 on marketing and advertising. Harper added that maybe they should spend less. “I’m sure people would still be here without so much money being spent.”
Morehouse asked how the tourism budget could go up 40 percent in three years. That question ended the conversation, and the Council unanimously, but with concerns, approved the budget amendment.
The second budget amendment on the agenda was for $57,000 for a new garbage truck. Grant explained it was her fault it didn’t get into the regular budget. The Council approved this amendment as well.
During the general Council comment period, Morehouse stated that all the other City departments stayed within their budget, and he didn’t understand how the Chamber couldn’t.
Cooney said that when he opened his business, Chelan was a three month town and that now it is a six month business.
Councilwoman Wendy Isenhart said she attended a PUD sub-station meeting and that the PUD was very open with the residents attending that meeting. “They are very, very involved,” said Isenhart.
Higgins remarked that there were now potential tenants seeking space in the old Chamber building.
Mayor Goedde explained to the Council the meetings he had attended over the past several weeks and that he was searching for a grant of $4 million to get water out to the Airport. “We are also talking with Apple Acres to consolidate with us on the water issue,” he said.
The next Chelan City Council meeting will be on Thursday, November 12, at 6 p.m. in Council Chambers.
(by Richard Uhlhorn)