About the only thing I agree with in last week's paper concerning the Glen Rose/Somervell County Chamber of Commerce is the headline on the Opinion page: "Glen Rose needs a chamber of commerce now more than ever".
When visitors call or visit from outside of Glen Rose, new people move to town, or businesses want to relocate, they call the chamber. They don't seek out downtown associations, they typically don't call city halls or county offices, and while they may come across a convention and visitors bureau, it's the chamber of commerce that out of town people think of first when they come into a community.
Glen Rose needs a chamber that is available to tourists, businesses and citizens alike. And for all the progress that has been made in the past two years, locked doors and an office staffed by part-time volunteers is unacceptable. Part-time is not what business members have paid for and closed doors mean closed opportunities when tourists visit.
What else is unacceptable is publishing articles and opinions as fact, when they are not.
Last week the Reporter reported on information that it received from the Glen Rose City Council budget meeting retreat. At the retreat Jimmy Gosdin (a chamber board member and Glen Rose Economic Development Corp. chairman) gave a report as to the amount of money the chamber spent on events since the first of the year. All that was presented was the expense side of the ledger, not any of the sponsorship money received to put on events — just the expense. The wrong assumption based on what was presented was that it was 4B money that was spent to put on the events, but that is not the case.
While I was at the chamber, Audrey Caylor and I guarded the use of 4B money judiciously. In fact, prior to the fireworks expense, the only withdrawals from the account was payroll expenses for the events coordinators. When the grant of $36,000 was first received, the chamber opened a separate bank account so an exact accounting could be made to the GREDC of every expenditure. The Reporter has copies of the bank account balances for the 4B monies, showing that the only withdrawals were for event coordinator salaries and deposits on the fireworks. People in the community are entitled to the facts. In Kathryn's opinion piece, she states, "The chamber did not live up to its contract with the GREDC…" asserting that the Chamber "squandered" GREDC money on everything from beer to unneeded T-shirts and a $3,000 bounce house.
None of the $36,000 was spent on booze, bounce or squander. All one has to do is look at the bank account to verify what the facts are and what they are not. Once the Somervell County Water District reimburses the chamber for the 4th of July fireworks, there should be close to $20,000 in the account. Hardly "squander" by any measure.
So what about all those "scandalous charges" of paying for beer at the St. Patrick's Golf Tournament or for T-shirts that did not sell and $3,000 bounce houses? Quite simply, those are chamber expenses which have nothing what so ever to do with the GREDC grant. They relate to events — events that had sponsors and their own separate revenue and expenses, but did not affect the balance in the 4B grant money. So Kathryn, you are wrong, "public monies" were not "squandered," or at least were not when I was there. Separate bank accounts were maintained and funds were not co-mingled so we could have an exact accounting of the expenditures related to the 4B monies.
The chamber's money was not squandered, either.
If you look at the T-shirts, there are two sponsors on the shirts. Three hundred shirts were ordered. Approximately 50 to 60 shirts are left. Shirts that were not given to volunteers, were sold. Between sponsorship and sales, the expense for the T-shirts was nearly covered. And if the chamber office wasn't closed more often than it is open, one may be tempted to buy a shirt for $12 to help the chamber out, they're nice shirts. Why did the chamber buy so many? The chamber ran short on shirts on St. Patrick's Day, but clearly in hindsight they should have only ordered 250. At any rate the shirts were bought with chamber money, not 4B money — no squander.
And what about those pesky beer sales at the golf course? Once again, no public money was spent on the St. Patrick's Day Golf Tournament. It was a fundraiser for the chamber…and one that benefited the County of Somervell in excess of $4,000. If memory serves, the chamber profited about $2,000, so the county actually made more money off of the chamber's fundraiser — as is usually the case — than the chamber did. Each golf team paid an entry fee and were given and sold drink tickets. Out of the entry fees and drink ticket revenue, the chamber paid the golf course for entry fees, golf carts, lunch and of course the drinks. So to characterize that "public money" was spent is inaccurate in the first instance and whoever is making that assertion either does not know what they are talking about or trying to create scandal were none exists in order to advance their own agenda.
A $3,000 bounce house certainly does sound expensive and makes for good reading in the newspaper and if true would be outrageous. But when one examines the facts and understands that it wasn't for a single bounce house, but rather for multiple attractions, including a rock climbing wall, over a three-day festival, it brings that expense into focus.
The chamber did its part in trying to make the 4th of July celebration a festival. We had things for kids to do, we had things for adults to do, we provided space for vendors, catfish cook-offs, bands and numerous other events to showcase downtown and Oakdale Park as a viable place to shop, visit and relax. While it was the most advertised event in the two-and-a-half years that I was at the chamber, with ads ran in Cleburne and Stephenville papers in addition to our own papers and posters made and placed throughout town, attendance was poor. It was too hot and people had other things to do on the 4th. The chamber learned a lesson, keep it simple. Do the parade and maybe have a street dance, but don't make it any bigger than that, people would rather travel to Granbury to shop and partake in Fourth of July events, or stay inside where it is cool or hang out at the pool at Oakdale Park…lesson learned, Fourth of July celebration, no festival.
In Kathryn's editorial on July 27 in the Glen Rose Reporter she states, among other things, "It's too bad that some of the people responsible for letting expenses get out of hand are now gone, letting other to clean up their mess." That is an obvious shot at Audrey and myself for deciding to take care of our personal lives. Audrey has a new store in Granbury, I have a film festival. I've volunteered my time, treasure and intellect for over two-and-a-half years for the chamber, ran movies on Friday nights — free of charge — and coordinated Casino nights and Market Days. I did so at my own initiative, because it was something I enjoyed. As a volunteer I have the right to decide where I spend my time, or at least I thought I did. Cheap shots aside, I am proud of the progress the chamber has made in the past two-and-a-half years. We moved the chamber downtown when it was dying and proved downtown was worth saving and a great place to shop. Downtown is a destination now, not a place to drive through on your way to elsewhere.
Expenses didn't get out of hand at the chamber, but even if they did, the chamber has a 12-person board. Ten of those members still serve. The same members that approved the Fourth of July budget before the event are in charge now, so there should be no complaints about messes "others" created. And as far as "cleaning up other peoples messes," Rhonda Cagle has been in charge of the accounting all year, she was the treasurer, now she is the president. She was present at when the budgets for events were approved, she was involved in the planning process, so I am sure she is more than capable in managing the chamber now. If not, she can always call me, I'm just on the other side of the square at the Film Festival office.
Enough is enough, let's cut to the chase. Clearly the chamber could and probably should tap into the GREDC monies that remain to cover any shortfall it has had in for providing certain events, tournaments and festivals, but that's up to the remaining 10 people on the board. However, no 4B monies were used by the chamber for "beer, bounce or squander.” The chamber was granted $36,000 to provide certain promotional activities for Glen Rose. There should be over $10,000 in the account today and once the water district reimburses the chamber, there should be nearly $20,000. The money was deposited in a separate bank account so an account could be made of expenditures. A 30-second review of that bank account will show,"no booze, no bounce, no squander…,” but then again, if it had been reviewed there would have been no article…oh my!
Facts are such pesky things….
Former Chamber Board Member and Volunteer
Editor's response: The Reporter's story and opinion column last week were based on coverage of the Glen Rose City Council's budget retreat and the list of expenses given to the council. Period. The expense list did not specify which expenses were paid for with 4B money except for the pay for the two events coordinators. The people who were in charge at the chamber and the leadership of the board all resigned, so no one from the chamber, except for new member Jimmy Gosdin, was present at the retreat. He had only received the expense list the day before after chamber board members pieced together the list of expenses from receipts and the Quick Books software program.
Furthermore, Best states that the Reporter has copies of the bank account balances for the 4B monies. As of this past Monday, it does. Best gave them to the newspaper to support his statements. The Reporter had no knowledge of these bank account statements before then.
The notation on the “Texas Jumps” expense of more than $3,000 simply read “Downtown-July 2-3.” There was only one bounce house downtown during the July 4 festival.
The chamber did not live up to its contract with the GREDC. The chamber's current board members admit that. For example, the contract specified that the event coordinator would bring in a certain number of ball tournaments, which did not happen.
The Somervell County Water District believes its financial obligation to pay for the fireworks has been completed. Therefore, it does not plan to provide any further reimbursement to the chamber.
As for the T-shirts, acting Chamber President Rhonda Cagle said there are two boxes of shirts left. They cannot be reused next year because they are dated “2011.”