The move came after speculation began circulating that the office and the position of executive director would be eliminated to reduce operational costs. Rumors surfaced after the Chamber had failed to meet IRS guidelines for a non-profit organization.
"There's been a lot of rumors floating around on the street of things that are going on, and I think it's kind of hurting the Chamber as it is right now," said member James Howard. "The rumor that I was talking about was that you [President Jeff Phillips] or the board was anticipating closing the caboose down ... and not using it for an office because we couldn't afford it."
Secretary Barbara Buckley said the board had been discussing where the Chamber stood financially, and the closure of the office was discussed as a possible way of cutting expenses.
"The Chamber takes in about $4,000 a year in membership dues," said Phillips. "We're paying out over $12,000 in expenses and salary."
"We're discussing where we're at," said Buckley, "and that's why we asked for input from people. We need to operate as a business this is what comes in, this is what goes out."
Howard said he believes the Chamber has more money now than it has ever had in the past and is a non-profit organization and should be operated as such.
"The money that the Chamber has right now is the result from when I was in the Chamber and we acquired the property back from the county when Delzinna [Belcher] was there, and it took about two or three years to do that," said Howard. "To my knowledge, the Chamber never was a for-profit business. The Chamber is for the best of the community and people working to make things better about the community, which is what we've been doing."
Howard said he had also heard rumors that efforts were being made to oust long-time executive director Gladys Hoskins.
"The other gossip that's been on the street is that we're just trying to oust Gladys [Hoskins]," Howard said. "Gladys has been around here without salary, without any income for many, many, many years and devoted her time."
Howard also said he believes when a drastic decision affecting the operation of the Chamber is made, it should be brought back before the general membership before it is acted upon.
"When the original articles of incorporation for the Chamber of Commerce were established in whatever year ... it specified, and it still specifies, that the Chamber is operated by a board of directors, and there hadn't been one for a number of years," said Phillips.
"I think you're missing out here," said Ralph Souleyret. "The intention of the board is not to override its membership. When it's a drastic issue, it's to be brought out, and a drastic issue would be the closing of our office. ... The membership controls, they vote the board, so you're doing the service of the members. The board don't control everything that goes on, necessarily, by themselves."
Phillips said the board felt like the money gained from selling the Eastbrook property was a one-time source, and other ways to balance the income and costs needed to be explored.
"I want to put it out here today, and see how everybody feels about it, and take a show of hands, or a yes-no vote, whatever you want to do, to see if the membership that's here is for or not for closing this thing down," said Howard. "I'm making a motion that we do not close down our Chamber office from where it is right now or have no intention to."
The motion was approved by a majority of the members present at the meeting. Howard made another motion that the by-laws be reviewed and if the current by-laws do not require board decisions that affect the business of the Chamber to be brought before the general membership, they be amended to require that. That motion was approved as well.
In other business, the Chamber:
n announced that membership dues have been increased;
n will make a contribution to Leadership Harlan County United and sponsor the graduation ceremony;
n announced that IRS forms have been submitted;
n announced that worker's compensation has been purchased to cover the executive director.