Correction: The city's funding to the chamber was set at $30,000 for the 2018-19 fiscal year, the same amount agreed to for the 2019-20 fiscal year

 

WASHINGTON — It took a few months longer than usual, but it appears the city and Washington Chamber of Commerce finally have a new funding and work agreement.

The City Council is expected to approve the annual agreement Monday.

"This has been on the back burner long enough. We need to approve the agreement. It's a budgeted expense," said Alderman Dave Dingledine.

The new agreement, retroactive to May, includes $30,000 in funding for the chamber, the same as last year but higher than the $25,400 paid each year from 2003 until the 2018-19 fiscal year.

The funding request from the chamber wasn't the holdup in negotiations, according to chamber and city officials.

Chamber executive director Chevie Kriete pointed to a perfect storm of events during the spring that included the city hiring a new city administrator, three new aldermen being elected to the City Council, and a rain-plagued Good Neighbor Days festival that caused an excessive amount of follow-up work by chamber staff.

Ray Forsythe's first day on the job as city administrator was April 15. The new aldermen took office May 1. Good Neighbor Days was at the end of May.

"The new aldermen weren't familiar with how the city and chamber worked together in the past and being good stewards for their constituents, they asked a lot of questions," Kriete said.

Forsythe said the new city-chamber agreement doesn't have many material changes.

"It's primarily streamlined to include the functions I believe are most important to the city administration and City Council, and easier to read and implement," he said.

Forsythe said he met with city business leaders to get feedback on their needs and Alderman Randall Black, one of the newly elected council members, helped draft the new agreement.

Kriete anticipates there will be more substantive changes in the agreement next year.

"We didn't want to make major changes in the middle of the year," she said.

More communication and additional levels of communication are the main changes in the new agreement.

"The agreement provides for improved communication between city and chamber staff, and chamber board members and the City Council," Forsythe said.

Forsythe said he and Jon Oliphant, the city's planning and development director, will meet monthly with Kriete and perhaps other chamber staff and board members "to ensure the city's needs are being met."

Also, Forsythe wants to create a steering committee made up of at least two aldermen and two chamber board members that will meet quarterly to make sure the agreement is working well for everyone.

Monthly and quarterly reports from those meetings will be given to the City Council.

Forsythe said the city and chamber have mutual goals of business development, retention and growth in Washington.

"A strong local economy is important to a healthy city not only economically, but to drive job creation, sales and services, and enhance the quality of life," he said.

"Residents choose to live in Washington because of our strong school system as well as our local and regional restaurants, retail and service providers. The city and chamber will continue to provide opportunities for businesses to succeed."

Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or stevestein21@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.