TUPPER LAKE – The Tupper Lake Chamber of Commerce is disbanding due to difficulties recruiting members, and the city is working on plans to take over the chamber’s events beginning in 2023.
“You can’t lead a committee with three board members” Chamber President Jocelyn Law wrote in a message to the Enterprise.
The city council voted unanimously on September 8 to form a committee to consider expanding the city’s recreation department. Membership for that 12-member committee has yet to be decided, Tupper Lake Interim Supervisor Mary Fontana said, but the city has reached out to people to represent the village, school district, Tupper Lake Business Group and other groups.
Councilman John Gillis will chair this committee.
“Taking over these events is a considerable amount of work for the city,” Gillis said.
But he thinks the work could be worth it.
“We don’t want to lose these key events at Tupper Lake,” Gillis said. “These are legacy events.”
The Chamber plans Brew-Ski, Tinman Triathlon, Trick-or-Treat on Park Street, OkTUPPERfest and Raquette Pond Brewfest.
These events are not new, Fontana said. They are already established traditions with many volunteers. That “The ball is already rolling” She said.
The goal of the committee would be to keep the events profitable and self-sustaining while using the revenue they generate for the benefit of the community.
“It’s a lack of volunteers and a lack of members that drove us into this fold,” said Fontana. “It’s a great opportunity for the City of Tupper Lake, but it’s a sad moment for the Chamber.”
This fall, Chamber Events Coordinator Christine Marquise will host OkTUPPERfest and the city will help host trick-or-treat on Park Street.
Brew-Ski 2023 would be the first chamber event to be run entirely by the city.
“We more or less made it anyway,” said Fontana. “Our youth leader is always present.”
In addition, members of the City Council have always volunteered to groom the trails and help with set-up and tear-down.
“It’s going pretty smoothly and it’s taken long enough that it shouldn’t be too different,” said Fontana.
The Raquette Pond Brewfest was not included in a letter the chamber sent to the city council asking that it take over its events.
The chamber has not had enough members for a long time, Law said, and is trying in vain to recruit new members. She believes disbanding the organization is the best option. If the chamber paused to wait for new members, that would mean their events would pause too and the organization’s money would remain “stagnates” in the bank.
“I don’t want a committee that has existed for so many years to just disappear.” law said. “But if it doesn’t get the support it needs, I don’t see it succeeding.”
The Tupper Lake Chamber was founded in 1958.
It was a difficult decision to make in one way and an easy one in the other, she said. Some other members of the chamber board – including Treasurer Sandie Strader – oppose the dissolution.
Law says she doesn’t have time to run the chamber. She has two children and a third is on the way on November 15th. During a phone interview Monday, she observed a “Dino Show” with her children and warned them not to eat toothpaste.
She also owns Mountain Bliss Massage and said she often leaves her paying job to work on chamber issues.
Law said she doesn’t want that “tied down” through the chamber and must concentrate on her life for now.
Law believes the chamber would need a full-time salaried director to continue.
“That paid person needs to be someone who is more than an event coordinator.” She said. “It has to be someone who handles the business memberships and takes care of all the background material.”
Law said the TLBG suggested that the city expand its recreational division to accommodate events for the chamber in the spring. She wasn’t ready for that then. She wanted to try. In the spring, when she was new to the position, Law said she was “Gung Ho” while trying to make it bloom.
But after months of little progress and not joining, Law is ready to step down from the role.
“In any case, I was thrown to the wolves in this position” law said.
She had been on the chamber board in an untitled position for a year when former President Sonny Young resigned and she was promoted to the leadership role she had not sought.
She said she didn’t get much guidance — she still figured out what a chamber of commerce is supposed to do.
“If I had entered a position where everything is fine and running smoothly, I could handle it continuing to run smoothly.” law said. “But I can’t devote the time it takes to pretty much create it. Because it’s not there.”
City to expand Rec department
Tupper Lake Business Group has asked the city to take over these events for the past year, Fontana said. The City Council had thought about it, but the Chamber was still trying to get its organization up and running at the time.
“What we didn’t want was to tiptoe” said Fontana. “We didn’t want to exaggerate.”
Now that the Chamber is dissolving, the city is ready to take her in, she said.
Law said she thinks the city is best suited to host the events.
Though she’s stepping down, Law said she’s willing to take calls, answer questions, and share contacts with the city’s committee, but she won’t be a member.
Currently, the city’s Recreation Director, Laura LaBarge, is doing one “phenomenal” Job, said Fontana, but she has a lot on her plate. LaBarge has a part-time employee who helps her, but Fontana said she would need more help to run these events.
Gillis pointed out that the Tupper Lake Tinman was the first triathlon in the area, “good before the Ironman.”
Tupper Lake Tinman celebrated its 40th anniversary this June. Ironman Lake Placid turned 23 in July. Gillis said the Tinman has a good race director and is a consistent event.
“(Tinman Race Director) Wendy Peroza did a phenomenal job.” said Fontana.
Gillis added that he sees other places now “Copy” the brew ski event.
“I’m comfortable with that because I’ve worked on each one.” said Gillis, who grooms the trails at the golf course near his home.
Fontana said she began speaking to Law about taking over events in July. There are still a lot of logistics and finances to iron out.
The city needs to come up with a business strategy – it can’t use taxpayers’ money for these events.
“That’s not what the community is for” said Fontana. “That’s unfair.”
In order for the chamber to transfer the money it has to the city, it needs approval from the attorney general or approval of a request by a judge on the state’s Supreme Court. This could take 18 months, Fontana said, but Law thinks it could be easier to wire the money.
It’s not the taxpayer’s responsibility to fund these events, she said, so the city would set up a new bank account for the recreation department. All income and expenditure would be dealt with in a separate budget, as with the city highway department.
Since the city may not be able to receive the chamber’s money for a while, Fontana said the first events may need to be paid for from the city’s fund balance and reimbursed after event proceeds are received.
“Rather than sending it back to the taxpayers to fund this event, we can borrow the funds from the general fund to host the event.” said Fontana. “Then when the profits come through, do a budget transfer and transfer that money back to the general fund.”
She said she’s seen the chamber’s finances for the events and believes Brew-Ski will certainly generate enough revenue to pay back the city accounts and have enough leftover to fund the new recreation division account.
According to Fontana, Tinman and Brew-Ski generate revenue; The OktUPPERfest is a “to wash” financially for the Chamber; and Trick-or-Treat on Park Street cost only the price of printing flyers in the shop windows.
The city is now entering fiscal season and is discussing this new venture in its meetings.