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Publication Date: Friday, March 15, 2002

Despite rent increase, city won't pay chamber Despite rent increase, city won't pay chamber (March 15, 2002)

By Bill D'Agostino

Since 1962, the Chamber of Commerce and the City have coexisted peacefully. The chamber's building sat on city land and paid virtually no rent; the city, the chamber believed, got services, such as a visitor's bureau, in return.

The "you-scratch-my-back-I-scratch-yours" agreement was never made official, so last year when the city decided to begin charging rent for the land that the chamber's building sits upon, the chamber expected to get paid for its services.

On Feb. 26 the city council saw things differently and decided to postpone the decision of whether to pay the chamber for its services for six months. That decision angered the chamber's representative at the meeting, since she felt the council was forcing the chamber to pay rent without getting reimbursed for its services.

This year the chamber will pay $10,000 in rent on the city property, starting at the end of this month. That rent will be upped to $20,000 next year, estimated to be the market rate for the site.

According to the chamber, it provides the city with a visitor's bureau and other services, estimated to be worth more than $50,000. The city, however, estimated that amount to be approximately $42,000.

At the meeting, the chamber asked that the city pay an amount equivalent to the rent, to keep the agreement stable from previous years. The council decided to postpone the request for six months.

In light of the tough economic situation the city is facing - the council is expected to have to cut services next year due to declining revenue - Council member Rosemary Stasek said she could not agree to pay the money for services. She said she would not want the council to pay for a visitors bureau now, when the city cannot expand its expenditures.

The city is not adding any new services this year, Stasek said, adding that it was important to separate the two issues of the rent and the pay-for-services.

"We have been paying for the rent; it's just been in the form of services provided," said Carol Olson, the chamber's executive director.


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