LEMOORE — The Lemoore City Council decided Tuesday during its regular session to partially cut the city's funding to the Lemoore Chamber of Commerce, and members of the Chamber showed up to the meeting to express their dismay.

For many years, the contracts with the Lemoore Chamber of Commerce were funded through the Redevelopment Agency. However, the Redevelopment Agency disbanded and the city no longer has Redevelopment Agency funds available to assist in paying for the Chamber’s services.

The current contract with the Lemoore Chamber of Commerce is set to expire June 30, and city staff worked with the Executive Board of the Lemoore Chamber of Commerce regarding a new proposed contract, which would take effect July 1 and end on June 30, 2019.

Interim City Manager Nathan Olson said as the finance department and other city departments went through the city’s budgeting process, there were a lot of areas where they needed to make cuts or changes to deliver a balanced 2017-2018 fiscal year budget.

The previous two-year contract with the Chamber called for the city to contribute $54,000 the first year and $55,000 for the second year for services, which included economic development efforts and specific programs facilitated by the Chamber, as well as annual community events, business development and marketing.

The city's contribution accounted for 20 percent of the Chamber's overall income, with most of the income coming from events and programs. Other forms of income for the Chamber include membership fees and property management.

In the proposed new contract, the city of Lemoore would contribute $30,000 annually for sponsorship of community events and payment for services related to business development and marketing — a 45 percent cut in funding. Agreements with the Chamber will now have to be paid for from the city’s general fund. 

William Parry, the current chairman of the Chamber’s executive board, said he and other members of the Chamber understand the financial difficulty the city is under, but implored council to reconsider the cut, or at least reconsider the high percentage of the cut.

Parry told council that the cuts would negatively impact chamber members and would cause the loss of community events, as well as “fiscal long-term damage to Lemoore.” Some of the events he mentioned were “Rockin’ the Arbor” and “Central Valley Pizza Festival” and programs like the Young Entrepreneurs Academy.

“The Chamber supports and cultivates existing businesses,” Parry said. “A 40 percent cut would concomitantly reduce our ability to do that by 40 percent, if not more.”

Frances Perkins, general manager of the Best Western Inn and Suites in Lemoore, told council the business had been a member of the Chamber since 1995. She said she relies heavily on the Chamber for resources and information regarding business and community trends.

“The Chamber does all the behind-the-scenes work for us,” Perkins said, adding the Chamber has risen to a high professional standard and maintained community relationships.

“We rely on the Chamber of Commerce every day to provide us information from Sacramento on legislation that’s coming down,” said Dr. Jeff Garcia, owner of Family Eye Care. “We rely on them to help us market our businesses through the weekly news blasts and other things.”

Rick Rossiter, a mentor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy students, called the Chamber staff “all-stars” and said they were “the best, most confident” staff he’s worked with so far. The Chamber represents almost 300 members in Lemoore.

Councilman Jeff Chedester said he wanted to come up with a compromise, and suggested funding be cut to $40,000 instead of $30,000 — a 28 percent cut. Council members got behind Chedester’s idea and voted 4-1 in favor of cutting funding for the Chamber to $40,000, with “yes” votes from Mayor Ray Madrigal and council members Chedester, Dave Brown and Holly Blair, and a “no” vote from Mayor Pro Tem Eddie Neal.

Blair said the chamber has done a great job, and she appreciates the members’ understanding of the city’s financial situation and need to reduce funding.

Amy Ward, the Chamber’s Interim CEO, could not make it to Tuesday’s meeting because of a previously planned trip out-of-state. In a phone interview Friday, Ward said she was extremely grateful for the Chamber community for rallying on behalf of the organization.

Ward said the number of people who gave public comment shows that the local business owners understand the value of what the Chamber does for them and the community. She also said she understands that times are difficult and cuts have to be made, and she is happy members of the council value the Chamber and decided not to cut the full proposed amount.

Ward said some cuts will have to be made at the Chamber, and events might have to be canceled, but she knows the organization will keep moving forward and find different ways to supplement the funding loss.

“We’re going to do the best with what we have,” Ward said.

The new agreement also outlines the services to be performed by the Lemoore Chamber of Commerce, which include:

  • Organize, sponsor and implement four community events annually, always to include the Lemoore Holiday Parade.
  • Meet or contact every business within the city of Lemoore.
  • Maintain an active marketing program and include the city’s logo on marketing materials.
  • Prepare, maintain and distribute marketing materials.
  • Provide quarterly updates to the city.

The reporter can be reached at 583-2423 or jzavala@hanfordsentinel.com

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