Chamber asks VFW to return fireworks cash

Written by Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer June 26, 2012 08:28 pm

 

Boom! Boom ... fizzle.

With only a week left until Fourth of July activities begin, the Brookings Harbor Chamber of Commerce has asked the VFW to return $1,000 it donated toward the fireworks display.

 

VFW representatives said the chamber had called the veteran’s association to request the money back, saying the check had been sent “by mistake,” City Manager Gary Milliman wrote in a report to council.

The fireworks will still go off as planned. And, as per the chamber’s suggestion, the city council agreed to contribute funds toward the festivities – $750 – to make up the deficit.

VFW Post Commander Rick Bremmer initially thought making such a request was ludicrous, given the tight financial situation the city faces.

“The city isn’t going to give us any money; it’s not in the budget,” he said last week. “It’ll come out of our pockets. Now it’s tit-for-tat, and we’re stuck in the middle.”

Council member Dave Gordon initially said the issue was between the VFW and the chamber.

“Let them fight it out,” he said. “We shouldn’t be in the middle of this.”

Conversely, he said the city has helped fund fireworks in the past and should again, “for the betterment of the community and to bring people in.”

Bremmer was so sure the council wouldn’t consider the request, he didn’t even attend the meeting.

“Well, how about that,” he said when hearing the news of the $750 contribution. “That’s fantastic.”

He said the organization would collect the remaining $250 and give the $1,000 back to the chamber.

 The situation began this spring when the city council decided against signing a five-year contract with the Brookings Harbor Chamber of Commerce to support tourism promotion in the area.

This year, Bremmer said, the chamber board planned to pony up the money – but that was before it knew the city council didn’t plan to continue funding tourism efforts with them.

The city and chamber have teamed up on the effort for the past 20 years.

 But this year, the city was only willing to commit to a one-year deal after the contract expires June 31.

The multi-year deal, said chamber CEO Les Cohen, is more appealing to advertisers and enables the chamber to get more bang for its buck.

The city contributes 25 percent of revenue generated from “bed taxes” – hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, RVs and the like – toward promoting tourism.

In the past, that has averaged about $35,000 a year, and the chamber’s annual $1,000 contribution for the fireworks came from that pot.

But the decision to donate $1,000 was made before the city decided to end its contract with the chamber.

Bremmer didn’t find out things were different this year until he went to the Wild River Motor Lodge to confirm the pyrotechnical experts would have free rooms during their stay, as in past years.

Bryan said that was not the case this year. Since his business collects taxes for the city which in turn gives tourism money to the chamber, and the chamber and city are no longer working together, he doesn’t feel the city deserves his help with free lodging, Bremmer said.

Earlier this week, the city chipped in $175 toward that cost and the pyrotechnic experts will pick up the remainder of the tab.

With the financial situation settled and Fourth of July festivities set to begin, Bremmer holds no grudges.

“I don’t want to promote bad relations with anyone,” he said. “We don’t want to cause a bunch of bad feelings.”

The money raised for the display also pays for insurance, banners and advertising.

“It’s been three times harder to get money out of the people than last year,” Bremmer said. “This is killing us. We just didn’t know we were going to be blindsided. This was a real butt-buster.”