Bath Residents gather in Millboro to respond to Board’s action
This story really began on September 13th when the Bath County Board of Supervisors met, and eliminated the position of Tourism and Economic Development Director from the county’s payroll. On the same night they withdrew funding from the Chamber of Commerce to the tune of sixty thousand dollars, and directed that a property purchased by the county with revenue from lodging tax intended to be developed as a Visitors’ Center be used for another purpose. Tourism revenue had increased exponentially during Director Maggie Anderson’s time in the office, and business owners, community non-profits, educators and young entrepreneurs are all very appreciative of her work. Many are in disbelief that elected officials made the call they did. Residents from all over the county gathered in the Millboro Volunteer Fire Department on Monday night not to express outrage, but to plan for what is next.
Emily Plecker, Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce gave some Chamber back ground,
“The Chamber’s been around since 1959, and it’s probably been around before that, but it was formally made a State Corporation in 1959. And the Chamber is a membership organization which assists the businesses of Bath County by promoting them, and also offering them networking opportunities to connect and develop as business professionals. The total budget for the Chamber, I’m giving you guys raw numbers, we operate on a $135,000 budget annually. And for many of you, you know that’s a really, small budget. Thirty-five percent of our fundraising comes from fundraising events like the Bath County Triathlon, the Cascades Classic Gold Tournament, and the Chamber annual dinner; ten percent of that comes from the County General Fund; forty percent of that comes from tourism, and fifteen percent, which is one of the smallest percentages comes from our membership dues. We have about just over 150 members, and not every business in this county is a member of the Chamber of Commerce, so that tells you there are over 150 businesses in our community, and I don’t know about you guys, but that is a statistic that should make you really happy.”
Different speakers shared a variety of experiences with both the Chamber and the Office of Tourism and how they helped them succeed. The very large group left resolved to take several actions. The first is to provide accurate figures related to the Tourism budget. Next, voters will ask four out of the five supervisors to resign at the meeting on October 11. They also may ask for a recall for the votes that were taken. This process is a little more involved, could take longer, and would require some funds. Finally, and the task everyone expressed the most confidence in, is to elect different leaders. Until then, residents with countless years of service themselves, past supervisors, past and present school board members, members of the economic development authority and others, all agreed the most immediate action is to let representatives know what they think, and how they feel. What Emily Plecker said, even though she was addressing the young members of the crowd could apply to every one. “We want to come back. We want to raise our families here, but the decisions of our leaders are making that impossible for us to do. We’re educated. We have perspective. We see what it takes for other communities to thrive, so what I want to see is our young professionals start stepping up, and voicing their opinions at these meetings, coming, showing them that we’re serious.”
For another piece of this series of Bath County stories, stay tuned to AMR.