The Oshkosh Common Council meeting featured the newest rendition of “Freaky Friday” (or maybe “Freaky Tuesday” in this case?) when councilors took up the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce’s request for another $25,000 to fund phase 2 of the Chamber’s Opportunity Oshkosh marketing program.
Since late November, the council has been trying to get the Chamber to take a seat at the table to discuss the Prager Study’s recommendation that the city develop an single, independent economic development organization to lead the region’s efforts and present a unified front for attracting and retaining businesses. Councilors have touted the broad stakeholder buy-in and support for the new direction.
Chamber officials have resisted saying the study was flawed, that unemployment rates show present efforts are getting the job done (although they might want to rethink boasting about that now) and that they see little reason to jump on board when they feel their leads, contacts and funding would provide the foundation for the new PPP.
On Tuesday, though, it was Chamber CEO John Casper who was asking the council to get on board with the marketing effort that had broad stakeholder buy-in.
“We want you to be an active, enthusiastic partner in this. This is hard enough. We want to get this going,” Casper told the council.
And it was the council expressing doubt, wanting to see more information, dragging its heels.
“We’re on board with this, but the funds we’re contributing are taxpayer dollars and we have to be sure to use those wisely,” Councilor Tom Pech Jr. said. “In no way are we not wanting to support this. But we’re being responsible to our fiduciary responsibilities.”
Councilors eventually approved the Chamber’s request for $25,000 in funding, but only after it added four conditions:
- The city of Oshkosh will match $1 for every $2 contributed by the marketing group.
- Opportunity Oshkosh submits detailed marketing plan to council.
- Opportunity Oshkosh submits detailed invoices of its expenditures to the city for reimbursement.
- That the city’s funds will be used only for future promotion of the Opportunity Oshkosh brand. (Councilor Allison-Aasby wanted to make sure the funds didn’t go to pay past bills.)
It wasn’t the only tense moment of the night, though.
Earlier in the meeting, Councilor Steve Cummings led the charge to ask Sawdust Days to pay 25 percent of its extraordinary services fee ahead of time–by the end of May specifically. He was apparently upset that SD organizers didn’t pay off the bill for the fireworks (which the city arranges) until earlier this month and still wary after their demand for a five-year waiver from special event fees last fall.
“They make promises and promises aren’t kept. i just think it’s bad business to let this go on without letting them know what we expect up front,” Cummings said.
Pech was right behind Cummings.
“Sawdust Days has been well aware these fees would have to be paid,” Pech said. “It was definitely made clear to Sawdust Days that these charges were something they would be responsible for. It was vetted and aired quite publicly a year ago. I cannot approve of us holding the paper for some time. We are not a bank.”
Cooler heads prevailed, though, and the amendment to the Sawdust Days special event permit was defeated 2-4.
“My opinion on this is, in regard to Sawdust Days, they didn’t originally plan to pay fees we put for for them,” Councilor Bob Poeschl said. “I think now that we’ve given them ample amount of time to know in advance they’re bound to that fee, I think we should give them at least a year’s leeway.”
One last note:
Tuesday was Poeschl’s last meeting as a councilor. After the meeting, he noted that his first meeting as a councilor was marked by a letter from Carter’s Inc. announcing an end to all OshKosh B’Gosh operations in the city. His last was marked by this. Ouch.