The Booneville City Council voted last week to reduce the annual dues contribution the city and its water department makes to the Booneville Development Corporation/South Logan County Chamber of Commerce by more than half.
Prior to Monday’s move the city and water department both paid $6,250 each year for a total of $12,500. They will now pay $500 per month for a total of $6,000.
Mayor Jerry Wilkins prefaced the discussion about the dues, and stated repeatedly, by saying the reason the city has yet to pay dues is because a recent audit finding requires the city enter into an agreement with the Chamber for services rendered.
He said it was the same procedure with contributions made to the Area Agency on Aging and the Boys & Girls Club of South Logan County.
Wilkins said he became concerned about the dues after a call from water department superintendent Larry Maness who asked if the water department should pay a dues invoice.
Wilkins said it was then he learned both entities were paying annual dues.
The mayor also noted that with that amount, plus other joint payment ventures like the fireworks or economic development trips, along with sales tax money the city invested almost $40,000 in 2018.
The BDC/Chamber receives 4 percent of sales tax proceeds, which in 2018 amounted to $27,174 and the city gave another $4,650 in miscellaneous spending.
“After looking at the contract, in my opinion, that should be enough for dues and all,” Wilkins said.
“About all I can say is I’ve been here the last four years and that’s been the case, the $12,500 plus the sales tax,” said BDC/Chamber Executive Director Susan Bulger. “That was what I budgeted with my board, (the city) paying.”
“What you’re saying is we paid $38,000 in 2018, you think we should go ahead and pay the $12,500,” Wilkins asked.
Wilkins said he had checked into amounts paid by other cities and that he believed paying the Chamber $500 monthly to cover both the city and water department should suffice for dues.
Bulger would note she was told by Paris Chamber officials their city issues them a $50,000 check annually, which is based on a set number of events.
“We’re not asking for 50 (thousand),” Bulger said.
Councilman Steve Reid made a motion to table the mayor’s recommendation, Reid said, because he wanted time to think about it.
That move, Aaron Brewer, formerly Chamber’s board president, said would be egregious because, as Wilkins pointed out, not money could be paid out until a contract is signed, nor could funds be expended for prior months since the audit finding.
Reid said making a decision could be just as egregious.
Councilman Joe Earp moved to approve the mayor’s recommendation but because Reid’s motion was first Earp’s motion was put aside while councilmen considered Reid’s motion, which would die for lack of a second.
Earp’s motion was then seconded by Robert Smith and passed 3-2 with Earp, Robert Smith, and Guy Robson in agreement and Reid and Brad Smith opposing. Councilman Eddie Gossett was not in attendance.
Then questioned whether the contract would be Oct. 1 of 2019 through Sept. 30, 2020, the motion was restated as a three-month contract through the end of the year with any action on next year to be considered later.
That motion passed 4-1 with only Reid in opposition.
Before talk of the contract Wilkins also added he hears three questions regarding the Chamber which are why Bulger is never in her office, why the Christmas parade route was changed, and why the marathon route was changed.
During the meeting Bulger said the marathon route was changed for safety reasons after runners indicated they would not return and run on Highway 10.
Bulger said Wednesday the route would revert to the previous route which turns south onto Broadway, east on First, north on Sharpe and ends at McDonalds.
Later in the week Bulger also said it was not herself, but the marathon committee who altered the route and that since the change, participation has gone from 33 total runners to over 200 last year, with more than 100 committed to the Oct. 12 event.
Regarding the Christmas parade Bulger said the change was also safety based because parents of parade participants did not like the turn onto a dark First Street near the end of the route.
On Wednesday Bulger said when she isn’t in her office, she’s simply doing her job.
“I can’t sit behind this desk all day long,” she said. “My job is to be out with our businesses, helping our economics, doing ribbon cuttings, doing the Taste of South Logan County, doing coffee mixers, doing training for our businesses that are wanting more knowledge.
“Writing grants for the city, working with engineers that come in here I have to leave my office. I’m doing my job. We went from 33 members when I came in here to 140 today.”
Bulger said she thinks the absence could have become an issue when a caller reported to City Hall they could not find Bulger despite three calls to the office on a day Bulger said was the same day as the annual Taste of South Logan County, and because the same caller had trouble reaching her the following day.
That call, she said, was regarding bringing a carnival into town.
“He didn’t need to call, he needed to call City Hall,” said Bulger.