A year after the City of Fulton and the Callaway Chamber of Commerce tangled over budget cuts, the entities appear to be readying for round two.
Each year, the city and the chamber and Fulton Area Development Fund's boards sign a service agreement, which establishes the services the chamber will provide for the year and how much the city will pay in return. From the time the chamber merged with the FADF and Show-Me Innovation until last year, the city contributed $88,000 per year toward its operations. Then, last year, the city cut its offer down to $78,000 — leading to weeks of meetings between the two entities, with the chamber and several local business-people lobbying the city to restore previous funding levels.
The city's draft service agreement for 2021 would cut funding again, down to $60,000.
"I'm not sure where that number came from, but the conversation really hasn't taken place between the chamber and FADF and the city administration," chamber Executive Director Tamara Tateosian said Wednesday.
In an email Wednesday, Fulton Mayor Lowe Cannell described the $60,000 figure as a "starting point."
"It was a number that was basically in the middle as far as what input we have been getting from the council, but ultimately, it will be up to the council if they choose to change that number," he said. "Likewise, it will be up to the chamber to decide to approve the contract with us."
Kim Barnes, president of the FADF and the chamber's treasurer, said the chamber received the agreement only five days before Tuesday's City Council meeting. On the agenda for Tuesday's meeting was a resolution authorizing Fulton's mayor and city clerk to enter into the agreement.
"I just want to remind everybody it's actually a contract for services — it's not a gift, it's an agreed-upon arrangement for goods and services," she said during Tuesday evening's city council meeting. "Starting this time last year, we asked for some dialogue, because, if you guys remember, last year was not a fun time. That open dialogue hasn't really materialized."
She described the five-day period as not a "very appropriate or respectful timeline" to allow the parties to reach an agreement. Barnes requested the council table its resolution until a more in-depth conversation could be had between the chamber, FADF and city officials.
"I had discussed some of the changes we were wanting to make to the contract with Tamara on Oct. 1," Cannell wrote. "I then sent the contract to her on (Oct. 8). During the time since, I have not received a request for a meeting other than last night at the council meeting."
He said he reached out Wednesday morning to propose a meeting early next week.
"We are certainly not trying to push anything through without some discussion at least," he said. "This is always something that takes more than one night and the council typically likes to have some input, so basically last night was just a starting point."
Tateosian said she's not necessarily holding out hopes for the city to restore previous funding levels. Rather, she said, it's important to have a discussion about the contents of and reasoning behind any contract before entering it.
"We're hopeful for an open dialogue just to discuss the body of work the FADF and the chamber provide to the city and to the community and to the business community," she said. "We're just hoping to have that open dialogue. We just want to work together."
Tateosian presented on the chamber's recent achievements during Tuesday night's meeting, many of which, she said, wouldn't be possible without the city's support. That includes the upcoming "Be Connected" virtual business expo — money from the city will pay for a $1,000 local shopping spree for one lucky participant.
"(They) allowed us to do some good things for our community," she said.
Cannell agreed about the importance of the chamber-city relationship.
"We always want to maintain that partnership with them, and I feel that next week when we sit down, we will get a better idea of where we want to be and where they want to be," he said.
The current service agreement expires Dec. 31.