Manitou Chamber considering its options

December 3, 2009

The Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce is considering buying the land its building sits on at 354 Manitou Avenue from the city, but first wants to present its membership with all possible options before moving forward.

David Simmons, President of the Chamber of Commerce, addressed City Council on Tuesday, noting that the chamber’s offer to buy the land might be a big help in a tough fiscal year.

“We have a reserve fund that’s specifically been built over the years as a building fund that would be used to expand the building, move the building or buy the property,” Simmons said. “(The city is) pretty much dependant on sales tax revenue, and it’s anybody’s guess as to how the rest of the year will hold out ... We thought that in the chance that sales numbers don’t come in, tax revenues are down, possibly we’d want to close the deal before the end of the year.”

Some members of council expressed interest in selling the property, but thought an official appraisal needed to be done before they could move forward. Some council members wanted to make sure that if the property was sold, the money would be safely tucked away.

Councilwoman Aimee Cox said, “Other communities have a general fund reserve they don’t access. They will lay off employees before they’ll access it ... If we go forward and sell, I think it needs to go to the general fund reserve, and council needs to know we don’t access those funds unless we have an emergency-type need.”

Other members were more cautious about selling.

“What I’m saying is, the city promotion dollars given to chamber by council, as well as membership dues are commingled in an account,” said Councilman Ed Klingman, “so I’m a little concerned about conflict with city promotion dollars that were meant to go directly toward city promotion being used to purchase a property that we already own.”

Klingman also expressed concern that Simmons hadn’t approached the chamber’s board or its membership about using its reserve fund in this fashion. Simmons explained he had hoped only to gauge council’s interest in selling before meeting with the board of directors on Wednesday and that he had expected this item to be discussed in an executive session before it appeared in a public forum.

Council said there was an interest in selling the property, but voted to indefinitely postpone any action.
The Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors met on Wednesday and Karen Cullen, owner of 1892 Victoria’s Keep Bed & Breakfast, said the meeting “went very well. I believe that the chamber has decided to not necessarily move forward, but involve our membership and present them with options of what’s available. We want to give them a perspective: Do we negotiate a new lease, buy the land, or do we buy a new property?

“It’s really about representing our membership. We want to put the best foot forward in our chamber location and whether that be maintaining our current location or moving is unknown.”

Cullen said the board had also discussed hiring a facilitator to help present those options to members at its January meeting.

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