The Merrickville and District Chamber of Commerce made a presentation to the municipal council last Monday night in an effort to improve their relationship with the Municipality.
Chamber President, Karl Feige, was the spokesperson at the meeting and began his presentation with a brief history of the Chamber of Commerce in the Municipality. In 1988 the Village saw something of a revival, with many of the stores that are currently lining Saint Lawrence Street opening their doors. “The economy of the village really boomed at that time,” Karl told council. “At that time, the Chamber found its legs as well. We would do things like put up the posts that line St. Lawrence Street.” They also put in the parkette behind the Blockhouse, which was done without using public money. “The Chamber really has a history of not coming to the municipality for money, we really did these things on our own,” Karl said.
According to the Chamber, the Village has seen an economic downturn over the past 10 years. “We have a situation where some of the major businesses have closed, turnover is high, and businesses are reporting slow sales, slim margins, and drop off in traffic,” Karl said. To rectify this, the Chamber has tried to revamp itself, with a smaller executive and larger member-base. It put together a brochure and distributed 30,000 copies from Kingston to Montreal and from Ottawa to the Upper New York State area. “We’ve had reports of people coming on bicycle from Quebec with these maps in their hand,” Karl said.
As much as the Chamber has worked at revitalizing the Village, they feel that they have been let down when it comes to cooperation from the Municipality. Karl presented a laundry list of areas to council where he feels that their support is missing. This included not having a Chamber of Commerce member on the Economic Development and Tourism Committee, being left out of the Teeny Tiny Summit and a dinner held for a Chinese business delegation, and council’s decision not to go ahead with the Lion’s Club’s initiative to build a public washroom and information centre in Merrickville. The Chamber is also not happy with the slow progress of a review of the sign by-law, as well as the decision made by the Municipality not to let them put up flags along St. Lawrence Street because of liability issues.
After Karl’s presentation, Councillor Chuck MacInnis clarified a number of the points which he felt were not warranted. “We have done nothing to put the Chamber at a disadvantage,” he said. In fact, he brought up the point that a representative from council was asked not to sit on the Chamber board, which would have helped facilitate the communication between the two groups. He also pointed out that the report about the sign by-law would be coming out in April, and that the decision not to go ahead with the public washroom was a financial decision. He noted that the municipality has opened and signed several other washrooms in the Village to help mitigate the issue. Deputy Mayor Anne Barr spoke to the alleged banning of the Chamber from the Teeny Tint Summit and the Chinese delegation dinner, saying that both were organized by outside entities and it was not the responsibility of the Municipality to decide who was involved or invited to those events.
Mayor David Nash says that two notices of motion will be put forward at the next council meeting to address a couple of the Chamber’s Concerns. The first will be to allow the Chamber to put up flags along St. Lawrence Street, without Municipal involvement, and the second will be to appoint a member of the Chamber of Commerce to the Economic Development and Tourism Committee. “We will continue to try and work with you to improve our relationship,” David said.