CANTON — Following discussions over village financial support of the Canton Chamber of Commerce this fall, town officials are also considering taxpayer return on investment for Chamber funding.
Now five months into the village’s 2020-21 fiscal year, village trustees are still gauging whether the full amount of budgeted Chamber funding, $6,500, should be allocated this year. The town earmarked $5,500 for the Chamber in its 2020 budget, and during its regular November meeting last week, the town council requested additional documentation of Chamber activity, employee hours, an annual budget and any reserve funds.
The town’s 2021 budget, which passed last week, does not include funding specifically marked for the Canton Chamber.
“In asking for a report of Chamber activities, what we keep getting is a list of the events, a list of the events that have been canceled,” Councilmember Timothy J. Danehy said. “That’s made it a little difficult for us to know behind the scenes what has been going on.”
Chamber treasurer John J. Gray Jr., of Gray & Gray and Associates CPA, has recused himself from the ongoing conversation, as he also provides auditing services for the town. Village trustees heard from Chamber board members Benjamin R. Dixon and Carol J. Spadaccini in September, and Chamber Executive Director Tammy M. Mackin spoke to town council last week.
Ms. Mackin, who started as executive director in 2019, said she thought the part-time position was out of her “wheel house” until she looked into what a local Chamber of Commerce does. As she sees it, the Canton Chamber is a “vital advocate” for local businesses, not an “economic development arm for the town or village.”
“It greatly disappoints me that a small portion of tax dollars will no longer be designated towards the advocacy of our existing small businesses, especially in a time when our local small businesses are struggling more than ever,” Ms. Mackin said.
The concern from municipal officials is that the Chamber has done little for local businesses during peaks of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. Danehy said some of what Ms. Mackin presented was new information to town council — Ms. Mackin said she personally delivered hand sanitizer and public health posters to Chamber members this spring — but questions linger about the Chamber’s operating budget and other efforts to support the business community.
Councilmember Karin S. Blackburn serves as center director of Northern Area Health Education Center, a Canton Chamber member, and said the organization did not hear from the Chamber during the height of the pandemic.
Ms. Mackin said emails were sent to its members, and she reiterated that she hand delivered sanitizer and posters to member businesses.
Since March 12, the Canton Chamber’s Facebook page has posted event cancellations, a March 18 notice of the Chamber office closure, a few reposts of local curbside offerings and links to the Small Business Administration website and St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce virtual events.
The Chamber is now promoting the annual storefront decorating contest for the holidays.
Previously located in the basement of the municipal building, 60 Main St., the Chamber office moved to the offices of Gray & Gray Associates CPA at 1 Main St. earlier this month. The office is not currently open to public visits, and those interested in submitting an announcement or sending correspondence should mail to Canton Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 369, Canton, NY 13617, or email email@example.com.