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$10,000 'contract' killed

by Alan McArthur
Landmark reporter

A contract with the Platte City Chamber of Commerce failed to be approved by the Platte City Board of Aldermen with a vote of 3-3.

The contract for economic development services would have paid $10,000 to the chamber.

A separate contract with the Platte County Economic Development Council (PCEDC) for $2,000 was approved by the board with a vote of 6-0.

Discussion about the chamber agreement began after a 4-2 vote to bring the issue before the board. Tony Paolillo, board president, and Andy Stanton, alderman, voted against beginning the discussion.

Frank Offutt, mayor, asked the members of a special committee that met with the chamber to speak first. The members of the committee were Paolillo and Stanton.

Paolillo said they had met with the chamber and that after discussing the matter and the contract, the committee was not in favor of approving the pact.

“What I got from the meeting was 'what can we do to get your money?'” said Stanton. “My position has been and is that I don't want to fund it. (The chamber) did not want to negotiate on the amount.”

Alderman Aaron Jung asked how the committee proposed continuing economic development in the city without the chamber.

Paolillo said he thinks the PCEDC can continue to help with economic development.

“For the dollar figure with the PCEDC, we can get more out of it,” said Paolillo.

Marsha Clark, alderman, said she had received calls from business owners who are disappointed with the number of businesses the chamber meets with during a year. Clark said she thinks the chamber should meet with more than 25 out of 260 business members.

According to information titled “analysis of 2008 economic development costs” provided to the city by the chamber, the chamber spent $1,882.13 by meeting with 25 businesses in 2008. The information lists a total of 87.5 hours were spent on the meetings, breaking down to 3.5 hours per business at a rate of $21.51 per hour.

Ron Stone, alderman, said he had received a visit from the chamber a couple of months ago and that the visit took at least an hour.

Many aldermen said in recent days they had received phone calls on the chamber issue.

“I did get phone calls,” said Paolillo. “All stated their dissatisfaction with the chamber.”

Paolillo said some callers did not want the city to fund the chamber because it was “not run correctly.”

Stone had a differing view.

“I think they do a great job and I think as a city we need to support them,” said Stone. “It does cost a lot of manpower to do what they do.”

According to the chamber's economic development costs information, the chamber spent $19,471.29 for economic development in 2008. The information lists a total of 775.5 hours for all activities related to economic development.

Also included in the cost is $774.36 yearly to attend board of aldermen meetings and create monthly and annual reports. The information lists 36 hours for the items. On Tuesday there was no written or verbal report from the chamber.

According to board packets, the last time a written report was provided by the chamber was May 12, 2009.

Stone said one caller was upset with the friendliness of the chamber.

“I think all businesses in Platte City should be represented even if they are not a member,” said Stone. “Maybe they need to look at their staff and do some corrections on that.”

“I don't always know what the chamber does,” said Clark. “I am still stuck on this contract and am not in favor of the contract.”

Alderman Jung expressed concern that the PCEDC would not be able to focus enough on Platte City.

“Shani (Porter of the EDC) has a large territory. Is she going to be available?” asked Jung.

Jung said she has to cover all of northern Platte County and may not be able to focus on things that go on internally in Platte City.

“A chamber membership is a tool for business owners to use, it gives them an avenue to market their business,” said Jung.

Stanton questioned the speakers for some of the chamber lunches.

“How does having Brian Nowotny (Platte County Parks Director) come and blow his horn about a parks tax help?” said Stanton. “Is the chamber going to go away if we do not fund them? No. They just won't be partly funded by the city.”

Jason Metten, city administrator, said there are a couple of other consequences. Metten said he currently sits on the development committee at the chamber and that if the city is not a member, then he may not be on the committee.

“Perhaps the city could join the chamber at the platinum level the same as Platte County R-3,” said Stanton.

Offutt asked if any of the aldermen had any amendments to the contract and then asked for a motion to move the ordinance to a second reading. The vote to move the ordinance for a second reading was split 3-3 with Stanton, Clark and Paolillo voting against it. The ordinance died without a majority.

After the vote, Metten said he had invoices for individual memberships to the chamber on his desk and asked the board for direction on whether to pay them.

The individual memberships are $75 apiece and Metten said there were 10 or 11 memberships for people with the city including each of the aldermen.

Clark and Stone both said they thought the individual board members paid the membership fees. Both said they had paid as aldermen personally in 2008.

Amy Hubbard, city clerk, said the city pays for all of the individual memberships.

Stanton said they could probably take out three memberships because Jung, Stone, and Debbie Kirkpatrick, alderman, were already members through their businesses.

“And you can take out mine,” said Stanton.

After the meeting, Offutt said the contract could come back before the board in the future.

Offutt said the chamber's budget year runs from July 1 to June 30 and the city had missed the funding time for this year. He also said the board could look at the funding as a line item issue during the August 18 budget meeting.

Offutt said he did not break the tie vote because a contract should have a majority of the board's approval.

“Contracts for services should be represented by a majority of the board,” said Offutt. “There should be general support for a contract. I would hate to think the city is spending X amount of money without board support.”

Offutt said the contract review committee was formed to try to find a compromise with the chamber on the contract to get majority support.

Offutt also said the chamber can choose who sits on the development committee from any of its members. He said that as long as the city is a member of the chamber, it could have a representative on the committee.



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