The Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved the first reading approving a trimmed down $18 million budget.
The budget includes the additional budgets of the Manchester Public Building Authority and the Economic Development Board. The PBA is allocated $348,000 and the ECD’s budget is $114,000.
Speaking to the board, ECD vice chairman Mike Niederhauser explained that the two major line items to their budget for $40,000 and $44,000 would pay Manchester Chamber executive director Katy Riddle a stipend for retail recruitment tasks, while funding an hourly employee to do the day-to-day tasks of the chamber. The larger sum will go to hiring an outside consultant.
Niederhauser said that the under the ECD plan, the chamber will direct the marketing program for retail recruitment. Riddle will answer to the chamber board and to the separate ECD board.
“They will not co-mingle or cross-mingle. We don’t want things happening where the chamber gets in the middle,” he said.
“We feel that we can do that better with someone, Katy, to do that service.
Alderman Bob Bellamy asked Niederhauser, who serves on both boards, how Riddle will do both jobs.
“How is she going to work for the chamber and work for your board at the same time?” he asked.
“I guess my question is if she works X-number of hours for the chamber, and we’re going to pay her $20,000. Is she going to work hours over and above what she’s going to work for the chamber?”
“Right now Katy is doing this job right now. The chamber is for business, no matter what,” Niederhauser said. “We’re hiring someone to help, that’s were some of the funding is going.”
Niederhauser repeated the often repeated call for a point of contact for retail interested in Manchester.
“Everyone that we’ve talked to get ideas from, has said you need a point of contact. A person that is designated for retail development,” he said falling short of mentioning a city manager.
Initial talks with consultants indicated a that they needed a fulltime person to answer to.
“The best person is the chamber of commerce, unless you have a fulltime city economic development director, unless the mayor is full time and has nothing else to do or there’s somebody. They said the chamber is always the best,” Niederhauser said.
PBA presents budget
The Manchester Public Building Authority presented its budget during the meeting for the operation of the Manchester Coffee County Conference Center.
PBA Chairman Zach Lowry said that the funding $348,000 that the city has allocated for the conference center is short of what we anticipate what this year to be,” he said.
Lowry said that COVID has impacted operations at the venue and there is uncertainty how the market will recover and how long it will take.
The conference center has applied for a shuttered venue grant that would allow the center to run in the black for the year. That grant is not yet been awarded.
Lowry said that the operation for the year would run $471,439, plus depreciation $29,376 and the PBA board budget of $16,000 comes $528,415, about $180,000 over what is budgeted.
“We’re presenting a worse-case scenario…that we feel we can hit. It’s a very conservative number, but it’s one that we feel we can hit without putting anyone at risk with going over,” he said.
Vice Mayor Mark Messick noted that the amount in the city budget was not the end of the discussion and if things go well, an amendment in late summer should provide more funds.
“I understand that. Why would you amend it then instead of amending it now?” Lowry asked.
Mayor Marilyn Howard responded, “This…budget does not contain paving, striping, equipment, new positions or cost of living adjustments. All departments have been asked to cut to bare bones. When I look at every department heads, they didn’t ask for anything extravagant,” she said.