The Union Area Chamber of Commerce is looking to have free use of the city’s auditorium and other facilities for its events.
“Since the events that we plan directly benefit the city of Union, it would be a great help to waive those fees for us,” chamber Executive Director Amanda Egli wrote in an email to members of the board of aldermen.
In a discussion with city officials at their Tuesday, Sept. 8, personnel, finance and public works committee meeting, aldermen expressed support for Egli’s proposal but determined it would need more research.
Egli told aldermen at the meeting that the request to use city facilities would only be used for events that benefit the city or people and businesses in Union. She said the chamber currently spends $725 a year on rentals for city facilities, including its annual awards banquet in the auditorium, as well as a mingle event in a park pavilion. She also is asking to use auditorium meeting rooms, which the chamber does not currently use, for its regular meetings at no cost. Were the chamber to pay to use the meeting rooms, it would cost $600 per year.
“I really do not like to ask to raise chamber dues at all,” she said.
City Attorney Matt Schroeder brought up the concern that if the city provides free use of facilities for the chamber, it could have to do it for any charitable organization. He was told the Union R-XI School District has had to pay to use the auditorium for high school prom and that the United Way is the only civic entity that hasn’t had to pay, because it co-sponsors an event with the city.
“I think if you’re going to do it for one, you’re probably going to have to open it up for all,” he said.
Schroeder said the chamber’s situation could be different after Assistant City Administrator James Schmieder told him the chamber’s bylaws were amended to give the city a permanent place on the chamber’s board. Schmieder currently sits in that position, which is usually reserved for the economic development director, a position he also holds.
“So that might make a big difference, but I think I’d like to see that charter before making a decision whether or not they should be charged,” Schroeder said.
The committee determined the city will look further into the issue and bring it back to a committee meeting before taking it to the full board.
Committee Chairman Bob Schmuke, who also is president of the chamber board, asked if it was a conflict of interest for him and fellow Aldermen Barbara Laberer and Brian Pickard, also chamber board members, to vote on the issue.
Schroeder responded he doesn’t think there is a conflict unless the aldermen personally make a monetary gain from the decision, which he said wasn’t a problem in this case.