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Split council renews contract with chamber

BARSTOW • The Barstow City Council on Monday night debated the Barstow Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Bureau’s role in the business community.

Despite a heated discussion, the council voted 4-1 to approve a new three-year professional services agreement with the chamber. Councilman Tim Saenz voted no.

Under the contract, the chamber is required to perform services, such as expanding tourism opportunities in Barstow and promoting local businesses. 

Councilman Willie Hailey Sr. raised questions about the chamber’s job, repeatedly asking, “What does the chamber do?”

“I see businesses like the bowling alley closing, and I wonder why,” he said. “I thought maybe the chamber would monitor the businesses.”

The city’s only bowling center Revolutions Bowling Entertainment Center closed its doors in December 2011. Chamber board president Teresa White said the chamber did not know until it was too late.

“If we were notified, then absolutely we would do anything and everything to help any business,” White said. “But if we were notified until after the business is done and is already closed, there is not anything we can do about it. ... we are there for any business, regardless of whether they are a member.”

Mayor Pro Tem Julie Hackbarth-McIntyre said she had previously talked to the bowling alley’s owner, who had trouble securing a loan from banks during the recession.

“There was nothing anybody could do because you could not get a working capital loan,” she said. “I just wanted to make some clarifications on that.”

Hackbarth-McIntyre, who has worked with the chamber since 1986, said she keeps up with the chamber by participating and seeking out information.

“Can they always do a better job? Sure they can always do a better job — that’s a part of business,” she said.

The chamber represents about 370 businesses in Barstow and its surrounding communities. White said the chamber stays active by hosting military mixers, open houses and manning the historic Harvey House.

Councilman Tim Silva said the contract for the chamber to run the awards banquet and Harvey House is a big savings for the taxpayers of Barstow.

City Manager Curt Mitchell estimated it would cost the city between $60,000 to $70,000 for one full-time employee to man the Harvey House. Under the agreement that will run through June 30, 2015, the city will pay the chamber between $40,000 and $60,000 each year.

Saenz agreed that it would cost the city more to manage the Harvey House, but asked to change the contract to reflect the chamber’s job in managing the Harvey House. Promoting tourism is a given, he said.

“This is very misleading,” he said. “I am just shocked that the wool was pulled over my eyes.”

Hackbarth-McIntyre said the city and chamber negotiated the contract in “good faith.” The contract provides a scope of the chamber’s duties, she said.

“Nobody was trying to pull the wool over anybody’s eyes,” she said.

CONTACT THE WRITER:

(760) 256-4126 or dlee@desertdispatch.com


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