St. Clair Chamber

Two aldermen with direct ties to the St. Clair Area Chamber of Commerce and/or its executive director gave their support to shift some funding in the proposed 2014 city budget so it includes money that would allow the city to pay the Chamber for services.

The same duo also officially could vote to adopt that proposed city budget next month that includes economic development funds directed to the Chamber for potential services rendered.

If the two aldermen vote on the 2014 budget with those funds included, it would be the second consecutive year they would do so. The 2013 budget included $6,500 for work the Chamber performed through Executive Director Angela Crawford.

Ward 1 Alderman Nathan Tate admitted to those in attendance during last Wednesday’s third and final city budget workshop that he was “biased toward the Chamber” because he is a member of its board of directors. He then also said he is in favor of funds being taken from elsewhere in the proposed budget and being placed in the economic development line item to pay the Chamber.

Ward 2 Alderman Barb McGlenn works at the St. Clair License Office, which is run by the Chamber. Crawford is McGlenn’s boss.

By law, the city must pass a budget by the end of the calendar year.

Last Wednesday’s workshop was the third the city has conducted in working toward putting together a balanced document.

“Let me start by saying that this budget is very tight,” Mayor Ron Blum said as the workshop got under way. “If you look at revenues from 2010 through 2014, you can see they’re basically flat. As we muddle through this process, I’d like you all to keep that in mind.”

St. Clair has operated within a balanced budget for several years.

Economic Development

During the workshop, as City Administrator Rick Childers went through and explained proposed budget numbers line by line, he originally said no money had been placed in the general fund’s economic development line item, but that Crawford had visited him earlier in the day to pitch her services.

This year, the Chamber was paid the $6,500, with all of the money going to Crawford as compensation, to help establish St. Clair’s Enhanced Enterprise Zone and update the city’s existing market area demographics from the 2000 Census data to 2010. The money was approved when the city adopted its 2013 budget last December.

Both Tate and McGlenn voted in favor as did Aldermen Zach Fuchs and Travis Dierker.

The actual contract between the city and Chamber was signed in February with the four aldermen agreeing to allow Blum to enter into the contract.

Crawford’s original 2013 proposal to the city had a $39,000 price tag.

No votes were taken last Wednesday, but the three aldermen present directed Childers to reappropriate $3,500 in the general fund to accommodate Crawford’s request. Crawford was the only noncity employee, board member or official present at the meeting, and she presented the proposal from the Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Development Committee.

The city’s budget workshop group included department heads, the three aldermen, Childers and Blum. Dierker was not present.

Crawford left before the workshop was finished.

The Chamber’s full board of directors did not approve the proposal.

“There is nothing in the budget for economic development,” Childers told workshop attendees while he was going through the proposed general fund budget. “But Angela brought in a proposal. ... We have to remember that any money put in means something elsewhere has to be taken out.”

The proposal Crawford presented states that the Chamber will develop a data acquisition methodology for buildings and sites to use when entering data into the Location One Information System. It also states that the St. Clair profile in LOIS will be updated with current demographics, other pertinent community data and building/site information.

Finally, the proposal reads the Chamber also will make all necessary updates to LOIS as needed for one year from the date of a signed contract between the two entities.

The Chamber’s price tag is $3,500.

When asked, Crawford also told those in attendance that city employees should be able to handle the updates themselves.

“I’m biased because I’m on the Chamber board, but I think this would show good faith with the Chamber,” Tate said. “I think it would be good to have it (money) in there.”

“I agree, if we can figure out where to get it (money) from,” Fuchs said.

Blum also commented.

“It’s all about promoting our community and trying to achieve growth,” he said. “I think working with the Chamber is a key thing, and $3,500 is not a lot of money to do this.”

After the discussion ended, Childers asked if “everyone was OK” with placing the money in the economic development line item. The three aldermen agreed. No official motion was needed.

It was decided that the money would come out of the housing demolition line item in the budget. 

Other Instance

The last time an alderman had outside ties to a financial matter the city was considering, he abstained from voting. That came during an official meeting, however.

Last month, aldermen agreed to pursue a lease purchase agreement with Microgrid Solar for a 25-kilowatt solar array to be placed on the roof of city hall. If the deal goes through, the city could save thousands of dollars over time on electricity costs and produce solar energy in the process.

During his presentation, Microgrid representative Tony Libbra said his company is working with US Bank on a tax credit process through Ameren Missouri.

Dierker abstained from voting because he works for US Bank.

Childers said he hopes to present the 2014 budget to the aldermen for passage during their Dec. 2 meeting.