CAPC-Chamber merger explored

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

EUREKA SPRINGS --It makes good business sense for the City Advertising and Promotion Commission to look for ways to work more efficiently with the Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce, said CAPC Commissioner Bobbie Foster at their meeting last week.

But CAPC Chair Joe Joy said if they do that, they will be sued.

At issue is that the two entities working too closely together could constitute misuse of tax dollars. State law makes it clear that tax dollars cannot be used to subsidize civic groups or a chamber of commerce, but it also stipulates that it is OK for the CAPC to contract with these groups for events connected with tourism or conventions.

Foster said she doesn't know what the final structure will look like, but added that the two entities would remain separate.

Commissioner Butch Berry pointed out that the chamber of commerce can lobby legislators, but the CAPC can't. However, the CAPC can contract with the chamber to lobby.

"You can't contract with yourself," Joy said, which means a certain legal separation will be a part of whatever solutions are implemented if, indeed, the idea goes forward.

Also, there would be no commingling of funds and the two entities would maintain separate bank accounts. Berry acknowledged the model in Branson has worked well. Eureka Springs and Branson are both tourist destinations, and Branson has found a way to get the most out of its chamber and city commission. He said years ago he was in favor of the clear distinction between the two groups but that things have changed over time and it might be time to take a new look at the idea.

Joy said he had heard from citizens who opposed the idea. CAPC Interim Executive Director Joanne Graupner asked what the benefit would be to the CAPC. Foster replied that she is not looking at just the CAPC, but to benefit Eureka Springs by saving money for both groups and seeing if there is a way for the chamber and CAPC, by working together in a new way, to do more efficiently what they are supposed to do. The CAPC will advertise and promote and the chamber will help businesses.

Commissioners passed a motion to schedule a public hearing and for Graupner to initiate discussions between the chamber's board of directors and the CAPC.

Graupner also gave an update on the new city website. The CAPC had feared early on in the discussion for building a new website that the discovery part of the project might take at least a week and cost as much as $12,000. The project was whittled down to only two days and a much lower cost, and actually lasted only four-and-a-half hours, so the cost might be only $1,250 instead of the original $12,000.

Graupner said now is the time for anyone with suggestions for the website to come forward. The new site will have live streaming capabilities from downtown Eureka Springs.

The next CAPC workshop will be Wednesday, April 13, at 6 p.m. If the workshop includes the city council, the meeting will be held at the courthouse because of space constraints at the CAPC office. Graupner will work out this issue and announce the location.

The next CAPC meeting will be Wednesday, April 27, at 6 p.m. at the courthouse.

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