Council: No more cash for chamber

Tensions that have been bubbling up between some current city councilors and the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce erupted Wednesday night as councilors voted to yank the city’s long-standing membership, a $6,000-a-year contribution.

Councilor Jim Doody, who introduced the topic during the councilor-comment portion of the meeting, said he believed the chamber had moved from being a group to help economic development to a political entity, with the creation of the Western Colorado Business Alliance.

A newly formed arm of the chamber, a 501c4 organization, has a mission of affecting public policy in the interest of business.

Councilors Sam Susuras and Tom Kenyon voted against slashing the city’s membership. Susuras followed with a statement that the funding would be reinstated as a first order of business at the next council meeting, when four new members of the council will take their posts.

Wednesday night was the last meeting for outgoing members Laura Luke, Tom Kenyon and Bill Pitts. It also was the final City Council meeting for Teresa Coons, who was term-limited. She was absent from Wednesday’s meeting and did not participate in the vote.

Kenyon said he thought some of the conflict was because the chamber did not endorse any sitting councilors for re-election and he, too “felt stung” that his bid wasn’t endorsed by the chamber. However, Kenyon said chamber representatives are an important advocate for business in the state Legislature, and that he would rather like to have a conversation with councilors to consider lowering the city’s contribution.

“I do not think it is a wise move to throw the baby out with the bath water,” he said.

Relations between the City Council and the chamber also have been terse as the agency lately has come out against several policy issues, including an increase in transportation capacity fees and a citywide zoning plan. Both issues pile unneeded restrictions on businesses, the chamber has contended.

Luke said on Wednesday night she thought the city’s role as one of the Chamber Chairman’s Circle Sponsors, several of the area’s larger institutions that contribute to the agency, has always been a conflict of interest.

In addition, Mayor Bill Pitts announced he was withdrawing his membership. The statement was met with applause by about a dozen audience members who showed to demand the resignation of Councilor-elect Rick Brainard, who has been accused of assaulting his girlfriend. He is due in court on May 6, the same day he is scheduled to be sworn into office on the City Council.

“I’ve been a chamber member for 44 years and I’m withdrawing my membership,” Pitts said.

In other news, city councilors:

■ Appointed Paul Nelson as the city’s appointee to the board of the Grand Junction Regional Airport’s Airport Authority. Nelson’s appointment is through May 2017 and he replaces board member John Stevens, whose term expires in June.

■ Accepted the lowest bid of $57,930 from Denver-based Empire Today, LLC to replace carpet in Two Rivers Convention Center. The existing carpet is 10 years old. An additional $16,069 is needed to repair the floor, for a total cost of $74,000.

■ Accepted federal funds of nearly $1.2 million for a grant to reconstruct North Avenue from 12th Street to 23rd Street. The city of Grand Junction contributed $80,000 in consulting fees and $108,763 in in-kind services in this year’s budget for the project.


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