The super majority of an overflowing crowd, primarily local business owners and Guthrie Chamber of Commerce board members, did not receive the final decision they were hoping for at Tuesday evening’s Guthrie City Council meeting.
Additions by the City of Guthrie in the latest contract warranted Chamber members and the Guthrie Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB), a subsidiary body of the Chamber, to request a 90 day extension and an independent workshop to further discuss the contract and answer questions that both parties had. Chamber officials say the grace period would allow them to fulfill their remaining contracts.
The 35 minute video of the discussion follows this article.
“We see some things, you all see some things. The best way to rectify is to sit down and talk about it,” Chamber Chair Evelyn Nephew said.
In a special chamber board meeting held on Sept. 11, the board unanimously disagreed with the City’s revised proposal.
Following a lengthy discussion (30 minutes), the council approved the contract, 4-1, and requested a workshop to continue conversations. Council members Sharyl Padgett, Jeff Taylor, John Wood and Z Thomas voted for the contract while Mayor Mark Spradlin casted the lone no vote. Council member Trey Ayers and City Manager Sereniah Breland were absent.
In a media packet provided by the Chamber, they highlight the changes in the contract: Chamber will submit an annual budget prior to approval by Chamber board, Chamber will provide City with marketing literature for distribution, Chamber office will be open four hours on Saturday’s of the 89er event and Victorian Christmas Walks, Chamber will notify the City of an event, inside the city, looking to be established within 72 hours of initial contact, submit marketing materials to City for review before being published and the Chamber will represent the City in a professional manner in person and in social media.
“We are asking for some accountability of tax dollars. If you can’t stomach accountability then we have a problem,” Thomas said.
Wood further the comment by saying, “Nothing in this contract says that we just want to go and take away your money, or take money away from the CVB and have the Chamber manage it. If you heard this, it is a rumor.”
Chamber President Mary Coffin, who resigned from the city council on Sept. 2 after serving seven years, asked, “What is it from our budget, that we have given you, what that we are not accountable for?”
“I’m trying to understand how we (city council) have given you almost twice the money in recent years and you were telling us that you were unable to pay your bills,” Thomas asked.
Coffin rebutted the statement. She stated from January to September in 2014 the Chamber had not met their financial goal and reported $100,068.29 was received compared to $131,107.83 from the same time frame in 2013.
Thomas quickly replied, “What about the year before?” Coffin replied, “I only compared to last year” which Thomas said, “I noticed.”
How funds are distributed to Chamber/CVB
City of Guthrie collects checks from lodging entities from the Hotel and Motel Tax (4 percent) and each quarter writes a check to the CVB for two-thirds. The remaining one-third goes to the City’s Park Department.
Administrative Fee and lift puts Chamber behind financially
In the original contract (1998) between the two entities, Ordinance 3034 allows the City to receive five percent for administrative fee from the Hotel/Motel tax. The Chamber says no city manager elected to remove the percentage and passed it along to the CVB, but says City Manager Sereniah Breland chose to deduct the five percent and caused the Chamber currently $7,695.99 in funding.
Breland says the five percent was talked about in a March 2013 council workshop and again in a June 2013 council retreat. She goes on to say she was following the ordinance as it is written.
In addition, Chamber officials say in previous years the City partnered with the Chamber in providing a lift to make repairs to downtown buildings lights prior to the Territorial Christmas Celebrations. Chamber officials say Breland refused to help with the cost stating it was a CVB expense leaving the Chamber with a balance of $5,525.63. However, Breland told Guthrie News Page that following a meeting with Coffin, she contacted a local business and achieved a $3,000 donation toward the lift to help with the cost of the lift.
The Chamber board, who also overlooks the CVB, was granted an interest fee loan for the CVB to help meet all of its contractual obligations after what they claim as an unexpected reduction.