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Chamber presents annual report to council

Officials with the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce presented their annual report to the City Council on Monday, detailing efforts made, funds spent and hours worked on economic development.

Chamber President and CEO Randy Allen said the chamber accounts for each project and task undertaken each year since the economic development focus began. For 2012, Allen said most of the staff time spent on economic development was focused on workforce development. Allen said more than $521,000, or 54 percent of chamber spending, was focused on economic development. Of that amount, $406,628 was spent on personnel expenses.

“We are trying to do the best job that we possibly can for the city and the county,” Allen said.

Missy Bonnot, economic development director with the chamber, said in the past year, staff worked on 36 business attraction projects with two site visits. She noted 12 of those projects involved an interest in the chamber’s spec building.

“We had a banner year in 2012,” Bonnot said. “I think that’s a really good sign that people are out looking.”

Shaun Sappenfield, existing business manager with the chamber, said three businesses expanded in the last year, resulting in a more than $26 million investment in the area and 86 additional jobs.

Mark Mehmert, community development manager with the chamber, said the downtown storefronts now have an overall 95 percent fill rate and the city saw a great increase in attendance and spending at its festival district events. Mehmert said an estimated 20,000 people attended Thursday Night Live events last year, compared with about 7,500 in 2011.

Mayor Eric Struemph noted that the entire chamber report will be available on the city’s website once it is submitted to the city clerk.

In other business, a bill to reduce the salary of council members and the mayor to $1 per year was introduced Monday. The bill is sponsored by 3rd Ward Councilman Bryan Pope, who will leave the council next month.

Currently, City Council members receive $450 per month and the mayor receives $900 per month. According to the city charter, “the council shall determine the annual compensation of councilmen by ordinance, but the salary of a councilman shall not be increased or diminished during his term.”

The charter also states “the salary of the mayor shall be fixed by ordinance, and shall not be increased or diminished during the mayor’s term of office.” Council members and the mayor are both able to receive “reasonable reimbursement for actual and necessary expenses.”

Rod Chapel, president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, spoke in opposition to the bill Monday, saying he is concerned that if pay is reduced, the pool of qualified candidates also will be reduced.

“You have important jobs and because you’re here, frankly, a lot of folks don’t have to be,” Chapel said. “I think that we expect a lot and with that there ought to at least be some meager compensation.”

Chapel cited two studies as finding a correlation between higher wages and political competition, as well a higher quality of politician. He requested the council continue to study the issue before making any decision.

The bill is scheduled to be acted upon at the council’s April 15 meeting.

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