Erin chamber told to submit invoices to tap into town’s economic development cash

Chamber of Commerce board chair asks for ‘money to be released’ by town for outstanding bills

ERIN – Erin Chamber of Commerce’s board chair has asked council for “money to be released” from the town’s economic development reserve to support local businesses and settle unpaid bills.

Construction related to the town’s new wastewater treatment plant has negatively affected downtown businesses, Ann Shanahan told council on Oct. 12.

“We expect further losses,” she added.

She listed chamber efforts to bolster support and recognition of local businesses since word of impending construction broke at the start of the year.

“We’ve really been flying by the seat of our pants to make this work for our businesses,” Shanahan said.

She explained some chamber members have fronted the cash for T-shirts, promotional swag and events.

A $10,000 bill for the “Discover Erin” website is also still outstanding, along with $2,900 in bills for graphic design and marketing services.

“We’re asking for the money to be released so that we can submit these bills to someone to get these people paid,” Shanahan said.

Fire Chief Jim Sawkins, who is filling the role of the town’s CAO, told Shanahan, “You probably won’t find anybody more supportive of the chamber than the person that’s talking to you right now.”

However, he added, “We’re not going to write a cheque. There is a process; it hasn’t been followed yet.”

Council earmarked $41,000 in a reserve for economic development activities to offset the chamber’s marketing campaign during construction, which was announced to shouts and applause at a Mayor’s Breakfast event hosted by the chamber in March.

But invoices need to be submitted to Erin before any money leaves the town’s account.

As long as expenditures are geared to the Dig Erin campaign, Sawkins said, withdrawals from the town’s reserve should fall “under the purview of what council intended when they made that commitment.”

“Terrific,” Shanahan remarked, explaining she wasn’t aware of the process because the town does not have a go-to person.

“That’s why I’m standing here today.”

Councillor Cathy Aylard, who announced the funds at the Mayor’s Breakfast, saying at the time that council was recognizing and addressing unmet needs, told Shanahan “it’s trial-by-error” right now. She applauded the chamber’s work.

Council agreed to consider an ask from Shanahan to allocate an additional $40,000 next year, which will be discussed as part of the town’s first draft budget.