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Chamber may be doomed as 2 cities yank funds

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PLEASANT GROVE — Without city funding, the Pleasant Grove-Lindon Chamber of Commerce will be history by the end of the year.

In a May 21 letter to the Pleasant Grove City Council, members of the volunteer chamber board resigned. Without money to pay a part-time director, board members say the chamber can't afford to continue past the end of 2003.

Lindon has also decided not to fund the chamber any longer. City administrator Ott Dameron said there's just no money.

The chamber, which hosts a variety of activities intended to promote the city, will likely end its civic endeavors by helping with this year's Strawberry Days Rodeo and the annual city golf tournament.

In the past, the chamber has helped organize the city's Easter egg hunts, assisted with the city Christmas lighting and sponsored the selection of a woman and man of the year. The chamber also conducts ribbon-cutting events to welcome new businesses, educates business owners and promotes the city.

"They've (the City Council) jerked their funding. If there's no money, then that will be the end of it," said Jack Larkin, a board member who operates Fakler's Tire store in Pleasant Grove.

Vivian Snell, also a board member and the owner of the Maverik convenience store, said the board feels unappreciated, but she's not sure the answer lies in closing the chamber.

"Our main frustration is money. We are discouraged," Snell said.

Larkin said the two cities have a lot of small businesses — but very few large businesses.

That makes it impossible to operate a chamber on dues alone. "We would have to pay $450 to $500 a year instead of $100," Larkin said.

Pleasant Grove Councilwoman Carol Harmer is unsympathetic to the chamber's plight. She said the chamber needs to be self-sufficient because it really isn't a city organization.

"It's a business. They're not really a part of the city," Harmer said. "Their main job, as I see it, is to have meaningful meetings for chamber members and to offer opportunities to network."

Harmer said Pleasant Grove and Lindon have each been contributing $9,000 along with office space and utilities for the chamber. She said the current membership dues are too low.

She said the chamber isn't dead. "We haven't lost the chamber. The chamber's still there. "We've just lost the board."

Carolyn Player, a longtime chamber supporter and treasurer for the Lehi Chamber of Commerce, said it's sad when a city doesn't support its chamber.

Player said without a paid director, it's very difficult to run a chamber.

"I think it's a shame (for Pleasant Grove and Lindon to pull their support)," she said.

Larkin said Harmer asked everyone on the board to donate up to eight hours a week to run the chamber, something he said is improbable for small business owners.

"We can't do that," he said. "I just don't see any way we can continue without the city support."

E-mail: haddoc@desnews.com