Council reallocates chamber donation for 2016

The town of Strasburg adjusted an aspect of its proposed fiscal year 2016 budget to allocate $8,000 for any organization to sponsor the town’s annual Mayfest celebration.

At Tuesday’s meeting, council approved the motion made by Councilman Don Le Vine for this reallocation with a vote of 5-3.

The council’s decision reallocates an $8,000 donation that would have gone to the chamber as a new line item for Mayfest starting in the fiscal year 2015-16.

Le Vine stated in his motion that “Any organization able to sponsor Mayfest 2016 … by Sept. 8, 2015 approach the town manager to negotiate a memorandum of understanding (MOU).

“This MOU would specify how the organization would utilize a donation toward Mayfest 2016.”

According to Le Vine’s motion, any negotiation between an entity and the town would have to be completed by Oct. 31.

Councilman and chamber president Rich Orndorff remarked, “The [Strasburg] Chamber of Commerce spent almost $13,000 to put on Mayfest, so $8,000 is just a little shy.”

Orndorff added that “none of the members of the chamber” that he has spoken to “has any problems” with the idea of the motion presented Tuesday.

However, Orndorff expressed his displeasure with the motion.

“Mayfest doesn’t belong to the government,” Orndorff added. “This council does not have the right, in my opinion, to take applications for anyone to come and say, ‘we think we can do Mayfest.”

Orndorff added, “What it says to me is that you would much rather have a weekend party than you would to forward business and commerce of our community.”

Several council members voiced opposition to the donation that, as Orndorff noted, the town had been providing the chamber with since around 2001.

It was noted also during the meeting that the annual Mayfest event is a fundraiser for the Strasburg Chamber of Commerce.

Councilman Robert Baker said, “I have a problem giving public funds to an organization so that it can raise money for its operations.”

Baker added that, although he was against Le Vine’s motion, he would support it in the event of its passage.

Councilman John “Red” Hall commented, “I have always felt like using taxpayers’ money for donations is not correct. I think they should be supported by citizens, including me.”

Hall said that the chamber should be able to support itself, but that “if they do need help,” he added that the town should assist them as they have done with the Strasburg Library and the Strasburg Museum.

Councilwoman Jocelyn Vena also expressed opposition to the chamber donation, stating, “My feeling on the chamber is that the membership is what, technically, should support the chamber.”

However, Vena added that she did not support Le Vine’s motion. She said, “I had thought that we were considering not making a donation in the next budget.”

In addition, Vena expressed that the town should consider adopting a different method for handling donations, “take in suggestions and take in oversight” of how to do donations.

Orndorff noted prior to the vote that the chamber’s fiscal year runs January through December. “We were anticipating [the donation] and built our fiscal budget for this year with anticipation of that [donation].”

During the public hearing on the budget, Strasburg resident and former council member Sarah Mauck presented research she had conducted of nearby localities in Frederick County regarding donation issues.

Mauck said, “I was asked my opinion … and what I came up with from [researching] different areas, is they use a grant system.”

Such a system, Mauck explained, would employ an application and reviewing process that would take place between the town and applicants. It would also entail a reporting process to determine how the money is used.

“The recipient comes up with a management agreement report,” Mauck added, which would explain how the money was used.

Pending final approval of the budget on June 10, Tuesday night’s motion would take effect starting July 1.

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com