Chamber moving somewhere
Plans for future a secret for now MONROE - The Chamber of Commerce will not be closing, but it is moving from its current location.
The chamber’s board of directors will be releasing a statement this week as to what exactly is going on, but executive director Annique Bennett said last week that it is true that the chamber will be moving from its current location at 111 W. Main St.
Bennett said the chamber is definitely not going out of business, but the talk about moving has made for some “angry misinformation that has been upsetting to some folks.”
The reason for the move remains a mystery for now as Bennett declined to comment on why the chamber will be leaving its current location. She also refused to say where the chamber will be moving.
The chamber is currently situated in downtown Monroe amidst several small businesses and houses the visitor’s information center as well.
The chamber’s board of directors will be meeting on its regularly scheduled Tuesday, Sept. 4 meeting and will release a public statement on the reason for the move and the chamber’s future location soon after that meeting, Bennett said.
Former mayor Donnetta Walser said the chamber’s rumored move has been upsetting to downtown businesses that will miss the “eye-to-eye contact” that comes with having the chamber next door.
“The chamber and visitor’s center bring people downtown; they’ll stop, have lunch, do something,” Walser said.
Residents and business owners are discussing the issue and have voiced concern about the possibility of losing the chamber of commerce and/or visitor’s center.
Monroe’s city slogan is “The adventure starts here!”, and many residents wonder why a town with such a slogan might not have a visitor’s center.
The chamber and visitor’s center coexist at 111 W. Main St. and provide visitors with information about places to eat, where to stay and participate in recreational activities.
Walser said the chamber is partially funded by a tax collected from hotels and motels in Monroe.
She said the tax exists to promote tourism in town, or “put heads in beds,” and cannot by state law be used for capital projects.
The city’s lodging tax advisory committee, which advises the city on who to give the tax funding to, is legally bound to be made up of representatives from the hotels as well as members of the groups who apply for the funding, Walser said.
Mayor Robert Zimmerman also sits on the committee, which has a total of five members. The other members are chamber board president Eldon Bartelheimer, Lynn Gose of the downtown revitalization organization DREAM, as well as two hotel representatives.
Walser said the tax amount collected totals close to $40,000 each year.
Bennett said the chamber usually gets around $30,000 from the tax pot. She said the chamber plans to keep applying for the funding after the move.
Walser said many in the community are worried about where that money will go without a chamber or visitor’s center.
“Typically the city doesn’t make the decision of where the money goes, they just make sure to follow state law,” Walser said, who conducted the committee’s meetings but was generally not involved when she was in charge of the city.
She said she “never told them how to spend the money.”