Chambersign225Meaford's Chamber of Commerce held their annual general meeting at the Meaford Golf & Country Club on February 19.

In her speech opening the meeting, Chamber President Shirley Keaveney said that in spite of the challenges and difficulties facing the Chamber in recent months, she finds her involvement with the Chamber to be rewarding.

These are exciting and challenging times for your Chamber of Commerce in Meaford, and I am happy to be participating in redeveloping our future,” offered Keaveney.

Keaveney, who has been president of Meaford's Chamber for the past three years, sought to inform Chamber members about the current challenges facing the Chamber, including the loss of the contract to provide visitor services through the operation of Meaford's visitor welcome centre, why the tourist information Apple on Sykes Street is for sale, and how the Chamber will be able to better support local businesses moving forward.

The Chamber of Commerce has a long history of providing outsourced services for this municipality, dating back to 1999 and amalgamation. Over the years the Chamber has made proposals and won contracts to provide tourism and welcome centre services. These are two different services: the tourism contract involved promotion and advertising, essentially attracting tourists to Meaford. The purpose of the welcome centre is to greet and direct people upon their arrival to Meaford,” explained Keaveney. “The latest fee-for-service contract was negotiated three years ago because senior staff expressed the opinion that providing a welcome centre could still be delivered more cost-effectively by outsourcing rather than adding to the workload of municipal staff. That theory was reviewed and adopted by council, an RFP was created, and the Chamber won the contract.”

The decision by council to exercise a 90-day termination clause to bring an early end to the contract angered Councillor Barb Clumpus, who accused her fellow councillors of acting unethically.

With the decision of council to prematurely terminate a legally binding contract, I believe council impugned its integrity, its credibility, and it contradicted the corporate objective to assure community health and well-being, and to provide effective leadership and governance,” Clumpus told her fellow councillors. “The termination without cause of the contract to provide services to tourists through a welcome centre is a serious breach of corporate ethics.”

Clumpus said that while the contract with the Chamber included a 90-day termination clause, she believed that terminating the contract was morally and ethically wrong.

As for the tourist information Apple finding itself on the market, Keaveney told Chamber members that without a contract to provide visitor services, the Chamber no longer has a use for the Apple, which was constructed in 1974 based on plans from a similar structure in Leamington, Ontario, which promoted their tomato industry.

For the past 40 years, Meaford's Chamber has provided visitor information services from the Apple.

Now that the municipality is taking over the provision of this service, the Chamber board decided to look at its options in regards to selling the Apple. There has been tremendous interest from potential buyers and widespread press around the possible sale of this icon. For example, Port Elgin would love to move the Apple to their fine town and paint it orange for Pumpkinfest,” said Keaveney.

In addition to providing Chamber members with their annual update, another task on the agenda was to elect a new board. This year's Chamber of Commerce board of directors are as follows:

President: Shirley Keaveney

Vice President: Liz Harris

Vice President/Treasurer:  Dan White

Membership: Robin Lambe

BIA Rep: David Glass

Council Rep: Barb Clumpus

At Large: Jon Gillette

At Large: Bill Monahan

Manager: Maryann Wark