The Harlan City Council, Tuesday, approved by a vote of 4-to1, with one member absent, a motion designed to encourage the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce and Shelby County DevelopSource to work together, and blend into one county-wide entity. In his motion, Harlan Mayor Gene Gettys said “The City has been a longtime supporter of the Harlan and now Shelby County Chamber of Commerce and also the county wide economic development organization now called Shelby County DevelopSource. Because I believe the two entities have similar functions and fulfill similar county wide developmental goals, the two entities should be merged.”
Shelby County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dawn Cundiff told the Council, “Our Chamber members don’t want the city controlling or telling them what to do in a business climate. It can be a great opportunity to work on projects but DevelopSource should find their way. The Chamber has theirs.”
The Harlan City Council also unanimously approved a second motion which said that the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce should be requested to submit to an analysis of the Hotel/Motel tax revenues generated and the allocation of those tax proceeds since its inception. The motion, as read by Mayor Gettys, said “The analysis of the revenue/expenditures should be done by the City of Harlan, Auditors, Williams and Company of LeMars, IA with the next 30 days with their report of findings submitted to the Chamber and City Council.”
It caused quite a stir among the guests in attendance. Cundiff told the board, quote — “I have made a report. There’s been a report every year. We have met that requirement.” She continued, “We feel if we don’t join DevelopSource then you will pull this money (Hotel/Motel Tax). It’s political blackmail.” She also said the Chamber has nothing to hide and would be fine with an audit.
Council member Dave Miller responded, “The funds have to be spent on tourism. Whatever the plan is, the funds will be spent on tourism, that’s the ordinance. The City doesn’t want to put their thumb on managing the Chamber.” Mayor Gettys commented “This does cut into a deeper issue. I encourage the Chamber, city and DevelopSource to look at the opportunity.”