Town agrees Chamber can run Visitor’s Center and still lobby

“Able to resolve our issues”

 After two months of discussions, the Town of Crested Butte and the Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce have agreed that the chamber can politically advocate for businesses and still receive public money to run the town’s Visitor’s Center.




The matter was first discussed in December when Chamber director Christi Matthews appeared before the Town Council to discuss formalizing the entities’ relationship with a professional services agreement. Essentially, the contract established a written agreement between the Chamber and the Town for the operation of the Visitor’s Center.
In exchange for running the Visitor’s Center, the Town provides the Chamber of Commerce space in the Four-way Stop building for a reduced rent. The Town pays for the operation of the Visitor’s Center through Business Occupation and Licensing Tax (BOLT).  
During that December meeting, members of the Town Council questioned the appropriateness of the agreement and the town’s right to fund an active political organization. Some members  said that because the town provides the Chamber with BOLT taxes the organization should not be allowed to lobby or advocate on behalf of its constitutes.
Following the discussion, the Chamber agreed to work with the Town to rewrite the service agreement to better address the Council’s concerns and to clarify how funding would be divided. The newly drafted services agreement was presented to the Town Council on Monday, February 4; they voted unanimously to approve the new draft.
Town manager Susan Parker told the council at the February meeting, the town was able to resolve the issues with the contract and the Chamber’s newly adopted mission of advocacy. She said the Town had asked the Chamber to set up separate accounts for its various funding streams so that public monies and funds raised through Chamber membership would be in separate accounts. Activities would then correlate with the appropriate fund so public funds were not used for advocacy.
Parker also said BOLT funds would not be used to pay Matthews’ or events coordinator Erin Cerise’s salaries.
Council members had also requested provisions be added to the contract assuring the Chamber would still host the Fat Tire Bike Week and July 4th events. Matthews says the Chamber agreed to the request because the organization was already committed to those events for 2008. BOLT funds are not used for the two special events.
According to Chamber board member Richard Bond, the council’s requests were not unreasonable. “We agree with what the Town has come back to us with,” Bond told the Council.
Parker said the Town was also pleased with the outcome. “The staff is happy with it and the Chamber is happy with it,” Parker said.
The Chamber will receive four payments of $10,250 each in 2008 for the operation of the Visitor’s Center.
 According to Matthews, the Chamber plans to divide its budget to reflect its three primary tasks—maintaining the Visitor’s Center, hosting special events and acting as an advocate and resource for businesses. She says the discussions and negotiations helped to get “everyone on the same page.”
“The council members may have had unrealistic expectations of what we could or could not do during our first meeting, but through our meetings we came to a better understanding and now they have an idea of what our future will look like,” Matthews says.
Matthews says the Chamber has not fully determined what advocacy the organization will conduct for its members as details are still being ironed out.
“Ultimately, it will come down to where the business community needs us and how we can be vocal for them—we’re still flushing it out,” Matthews says.

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