Chamber would run Pioneer Days, looking for city’s help

The St. Francis Chamber of Commerce is considering taking charge of the city’s annual Pioneer Days celebration. But before it makes that commitment, it is asking the city of St. Francis to agree to help fund the event for a minimum of the next three years.

Chamber of Commerce President Joe Raus told the St. Francis City Council Aug. 5 that the chamber understands the city is trying to phase out its financial participation in the event. Although the chamber would like to take over Pioneer Days, it does have some concerns about the cost to run the event, according to Raus.

The St. Francis Chamber of Commerce is relatively small, with 80 to 85 members. It collects revenues of between $15,000 and $18,000 per year in the form of membership dues and other sources, said Raus.

It is estimated that Pioneer Days will cost approximately $30,000 in 2014.

“No one wants to see the event go away,” Raus said. The chamber would like to create a temporary cost-sharing partnership with the city.

The chamber would take over and run the event, with the city not having to contribute any staff hours. The chamber is asking that the city contribute the $10,000 for fireworks from the liquor store fund as it has in the past, plus cover half the cost of the event — a total of about $15,000 — for each of the next three years.

Councilmembers Amy Lazere and Chris McClish both voiced their support of continuing Pioneer Days.

“I believe that Pioneer Days is very important too,” said Councilmember Tim Brown. “But I am concerned about making a commitment. None of us has a crystal ball … I don’t want to lay off a police officer for Pioneer Days.”

According to Brown, the city needs to watch its budget and keep taxes low.

Lazere said that the city has been paying for the event for many years, so this isn’t a new expense. The city now has gambling fund revenues that could potentially be tapped into, she said.

Councilmember Mike Haggard asked where the money to fund Pioneer Days has come from in the past and how much has it cost the city each year. He was told that the city’s 2013 Pioneer Days budget was about $18,000.

The council directed city staff to identify potential funding sources and to come back with a recommendation at it next meeting Aug. 19, at which time the council will make a decision on the chamber’s request.

Once the chamber of commerce board of directors has that answer from the city, it plans to vote on whether to take charge of Pioneer Days at its Aug. 21 meeting.