Canton agrees to provide full funding to Chamber

The Canton Chamber of Commerce was previously located in the basement of the municipal building, 60 Main St. The Chamber office is now housed in the offices of Gray & Gray and Associates CPA, 1 Main St. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

CANTON — After two months of consideration, the village board has agreed to appropriate the full 2020 funding amount to the Canton Chamber of Commerce — caveats apply.

In September, the village postponed a decision about this year’s $6,500 budgeted for the Chamber after a review of 2020 Chamber activities began. Village trustees heard from Chamber board members Benjamin R. Dixon and Carol J. Spadaccini this fall, and Chamber Executive Director Tammy M. Mackin spoke to town council last week.

Five months into the village’s 2020-21 fiscal year, the Chamber’s fiscal year is coming to a close Dec. 31, a timing “mismatch,” village Trustee Anna M. Sorensen said before suggesting the full payment be made and new expectations for the Chamber be written.

In 2019, the village signed a contract with the Canton Chamber, but no official contract was written for 2020, leaving no “method of accountability” attached to the $6,500 taxpayer investment, Ms. Sorensen said.

Both the town and the village have been mulling how Chamber programming has been valuable to the local business community. The concern from municipal officials is that the Chamber has done little for local businesses during peaks of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Discussions with Chamber board members, Ms. Sorensen said, “have not been altogether satisfactory,” but she added that moving forward with this year’s payment and preparing a contract for next year would be a sign of the village’s “desire to work with the Canton Chamber for the benefit of the community.”

“I would say let’s pay them and give them a one-star review,” village Trustee Klaus D. Proemm said.

During its regular November meeting, town council tabled a decision to pay the $5,500 it designated for the Chamber this year, and requested additional documentation of Chamber activity, employee hours, an annual budget and any reserve funds.

Ms. Mackin, who started as executive director in the summer of 2019, told town council 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.”

“The bottom line is, what we all really want is to have a robust Chamber of Commerce that is supporting our local businesses that need it especially now, as much or more than ever,” village Trustee Carol S. Pynchon said.

Ms. Sorensen and Ms. Pynchon, who serve on the joint town and village economic development committee with town councillors Timothy J. Danehy and Karin S. Blackburn, plan to clarify expectations for Chamber activity and request consistent and complete reporting in exchange for annual funding.

“They think they’re doing what’s expected of them, and we don’t think they’re doing what we expect them to do,” Ms. Pynchon said, adding that the “breakdown in expectations” is partly the village’s responsibility. “I do want to make this work, I want to be able to have a good relationship with them. I want to be able to work positively and move forward.”

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