Oak Harbor Chamber funding boosted in new contract with city

The Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce is getting a bump in funding from the city next year.

Last week, members of the City Council unanimously approved a renewal of the tourism services contract with the chamber.

Under the agreement, the chamber receives lodging tax funds earmarked for tourism-promoting efforts.

City Finance Director Doug Merriman offered a proposal to renew the contract for 2014 at the same $72,000 level.

The council unanimously passed a one-year contract for $80,000 in lodging tax funds.

Chamber of Commerce Director Kathy Reed gave a presentation at a prior council meeting that showed how the funds are spent and leveraged with volunteer work. She outlined a long list of all the work the chamber does to improve the business climate.

Last Wednesday, Reed asked the council to “reinstate” $8,000 which was cut in prior years; the money used to be earmarked for a billboard.

Reed said the amount from the city doesn’t cover the costs of programs it is supposed to fund.

In addition, she suggested that the contact be extended.

“I would love to, in a perfect world, have a three-year contract to get us an the (city’s) biennial budget and to give us a little time as staff to not worry about things,” she said.

The council members unanimously expressed support for increasing the funding, saying that Reed’s presentation convinced them that the city is getting a return on investment and more.

“It’s pretty obvious to me that we’re getting a lot for that $72,000,” Councilman Bob Severns said.

Yet the majority of council members weren’t ready for a three-year contract.

Councilman Rick Almberg suggested that a little uncertainty about the contract will encourage the chamber to continue working hard.

“I don’t want you to feel too flush either,” he said. “We’re worried too. We’re worried all the time.”

Nobody mentioned Mayor Scott Dudley’s proposal to redirect funding for the chamber to create more special events; the idea was proposed prior to the November election.


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