Cottonwood City Council voted unanimously Feb. 1 to lower recreation center membership fees for people who own businesses inside city limits but live outside Cottonwood.
Under the new policy, nonresidents who hold a Cottonwood business license will pay the same membership fee as residents. A single, nonresident adult who would normally be charged $350 for a one-year membership, for example, will pay $275, a discount of $75. Nonresident employees of such businesses do not qualify for the discount.
As many as 270 business owners could qualify, 15 percent of the approximately 1,800 firms that hold a license to transact business in the city, Mayor Diane Joens said.
“We might pick up 20 to 60 businesses,” Parks and Recreation Director Richard Faust said. “Sixty businesses would pay less than what they would normally pay.”
If the expected number of business owners took advantage of the discount, the recreation center would lose about $1,200 it might otherwise have collected, Faust told council.
The original idea, proposed after a discussion between City Manager Doug Bartosh and Cottonwood Chamber of Commerce officials, would have restricted the discount to businesses that also belong to the chamber, but several council members objected. Bartosh said after the meeting the idea to restrict the discount to chamber members was his.
“How do we define ‘owner’ and why would they need to be members of the chamber?” Councilman Tim Elinski asked.
“The city supports the chamber so much through the bed tax, it seems like a fair return,” Bartosh said.
“It seems like a form of blackmail, sort of,” Councilman Darold Smith said. “It seems like we’re forcing everybody who wants a discount to join the chamber.”
Increasing chamber membership would benefit economic development in the city because chamber members support each other, Joens said.
“The chamber does an awful lot for the community and it’s a reward for those people,” Faust said.
Cottonwood resident Bob Oliphant told council the proposed policy discriminated against some businesses, including those which do not belong to the chamber, nonprofit organizations and people who work for the state and county.
“Businesses that have chosen not to join the chamber should not be penalized,” Oliphant said.
Councilman Duane Kirby said he always advocated keeping membership fees as low as possible and extending memberships to as many people as possible.
Councilman Terence Pratt said arguments against limiting the discount to chamber members persuaded him to support an amendment to the original motion. In the end, the chamber restriction was removed from the new policy.