Should Hancock Chamber lease city building for a dollar?

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - The Hancock County Chamber of Commerce is leasing a city owned building, but some Bay St. Louis city council members say the deal is a little too sweet.

In fact, some say it's time to renegotiate.

The old City Hall Annex, which is home to the Chamber of Commerce, is a 5,000 square foot building on Court Street. Now, some city council members say the dollar a year lease is more of a steal than a bargain.

"I voted years ago, when we gave it to them, to charge something that I wasn't in favor of giving it to them for a dollar, or free you may as well say. The city wasn't in the financial shape to do it," said Ward 5 Councilman Joey Boudin.

Other council members agree with him.

"The chamber is phenomenal. They do a phenomenal job, not only for the city of Bay St. Louis, but for the entire county. But again, we don't want to sit struggling with our bills, and they pay a dollar a year," said Ward 3 Councilman Jeffrey Reed.

The Chamber's executive director, Tish Williams, says it's not as simple as that. She says when the one dollar a year lease started, a $9,000 dollar yearly operations grant from the city went away.

Williams says the chamber also agreed to staff the city visitors center as part of the deal.

"So we are delivering economic development services that have value to our businesses' community," said Williams.

She and others point out the city provides free building space to other non-profits like the Boy's and Girls club, the County Senior Citizens Program and the Bay-Waveland Garden Club.

"They are totally, totally different entities. I don't think they get the income our chamber gets," said Councilman Reed.

Boudin says he's not anti-chamber, But says it's time the chamber steps up.

Next week, the city will meet with chamber leaders to discuss numbers.

"If it's worthwhile for the city and a good deal for the taxpayer, I will certainly be in-favor of leasing it to the Chamber. If it's not a good deal, I'm going to make a motion to go ahead and put the building up for sale," said Boudin.

The meeting between the city and the Chamber will be held next Tuesday, November 19 at 4:30 PM at the City Hall Chambers. The city's regular council meeting will follow that.

Copyright 2013 WLOX. All rights reserved.