NorthIowaToday.com has learned that the City of Mason City pays for at least five memberships at the Chamber of Commerce. Our on-going series of stories examining City spending looks closer at this cost and has reactions from City officials.|NorthIowaToday.com continues its probe into City of Mason City spending habits with a look at a cost to taxpayers involving the Chamber of Commerce in Mason City.
NorthIowaToday.com acquired details from the City Finance Department that outlines this expenditure. According to Finance Director Kevin Jacobson, at least five City departments are paying dues to the Mason City Chamber of Commerce. The following lists which departments are paying dues, how much the dues cost, and when they were last paid:
|Department||Date dues were last paid||Amount|
|Mayor and Council||9/10/2009||$125|
“This is what my records show as membership payments the last year or so,” said Jacobson.
NorthIowaToday.com asked City officials what the benefit to the taxpayers is in a Chamber of Commerce membership. City officials were also asked what function or service the Chamber of Commerce provides to the City that other entities, like Visit Mason City, do not provide.
Scott Tornquist told NorthIowaToday.com that “these are good questions. We will hash this out as we work through the operating budget. If nobody else brings this up, I will on January 13th.”
The Mason City budget process will get underway this month for fiscal year 2011-2012.
City Councilman Max Weaver was a bit more pointed in his remarks. “Five memberships that’s ridiculous. How lean is that? It’s obvious the chamber is all about the money.”
Interim Recreation Department Director Brian Pauly told NorthIowaToday.com that he questioned the expense as soon as he started his job. “One of my questions that I had when I started, ‘Why are the City of Mason City and the Recreation Department separate members of the chamber?'” Pauly says he won’t be renewing the Recreation Department’s membership at the Chamber. “There is really no need for us to have a separate membership other than to get their mailings. I am not renewing the Recreation Department membership and we will be using the city membership.”
Pauly said there is a benefit to the Recreation Department in being a Chamber member. “The Recreation Department does benefit from the chambers referral process… and being a member has also helped with applying for grants.”
Mayor Eric Bookmeyer once again did not respond to our questions.
NorthIowaToday.com will continue to monitor City spending and the budget process in Mason City as it unfolds.