The Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce is on the verge of bankruptcy, and its president asked Wrightsville Borough Council on June 7 for approximately $15,000 “as a gift, as a donation, as a grant” to help keep the chamber afloat.
Jeanne Cooper spoke at council’s regular meeting and said that the chamber has been unable to hold events that generate revenue because of restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. And without any income, she said, they can’t pay executive director Rachel Stebbins, who resigned.
Cooper is seeking $45,000 to $47,000 from the municipalities the chamber represents — Wrightsville, York County, and Marietta and Columbia — and is asking them each to pay one-third. She plans on visiting each town’s borough council to make an official request.
“This is a huge ask,” Cooper said. Later, she said: “I feel semi-ridiculous coming before you and putting this before you.”
The money would cover Stebbins’ salary and give the chamber time to sell its offices at 445 Linden St. in Columbia. Cooper said that would generate enough revenue for the chamber to pay off its obligations in time to hold the annual Bridge Bust on the Route 462 bridge between Wrightsville and Columbia. The event generates the chamber’s most significant revenue, Cooper said.
The chamber tried to sell its offices in Columbia, but two deals fell through because a deed restriction only allows the chamber to sell the property to another nonprofit organization.
Although sympathetic, borough council’s feedback on the funding request was not positive.
“Our borough struggles year to year without raising taxes,” council member Michael Gromling said.
In other business, council approved a resolution allowing anyone holding a public event to suspend the open container law during that event at that location. For instance, the Burning Bridge Tavern regularly holds outdoor events and closes off a section of Front Street. During those events, people can now drink alcohol outside — but only within the area designated for the event.
“When they step beyond that barricade, they’re subject to the open container law,” Gromling said.
In 2020, borough council suspended the borough’s open container law in an effort to boost business for local establishments. With restrictions on restaurants now lifted, council President Eric J. White called the resolution a “reasonable compromise” between having no open container law and giving residents and businesses options for outdoor events with alcohol.