Baxter Co. Economic Development Committee votes to table Chamber proposal indefinitely


The Baxter County Quorum Court’s Economic Development and Budget committees held a joint meeting Thursday night to discuss a proposed partnership with the Mountain Home Chamber of Commerce for economic development. With a full house, the meeting lasted over an hour and a half, during which justices asked questions of the Chamber and heard comments from the public on both sides.

Before the discussion began, Baxter County Collector Teresa Smith informed the committees due to cyber-attacks on the county’s assessor, collector, and sheriff’s Office late last year, software provider fees would significantly increase in 2024. At this time, the provider could not provide an estimate of how much of an increase the county will see but indicated it would be substantial.

Justices expressed concerns about using taxpayer funds to benefit a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and whether approving this partnership would set a precedent for other non-profit organizations to solicit funds from the government. They also asked where funds are currently collected from membership dues, and how much the Chamber receives from the city in taxes.

Mountain Home Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Dani Pugsley stated with their 600 members, they bring in approximately $80,000 in membership dues, with additional funding coming from events. Much of the funds are used to pay the salaries of staff members, put on events, and support professional development. Any money received from the city’s Advertising and Promotion committee is received through reimbursement if a project is approved. Pugsley stated on average, the amount is $20,000.

Members of the Quorum Court asked what other efforts have been done and if members have been asked to contribute more to the project. Pugsley state members have not been asked to contribute more at this time, and many current members are small businesses and are unable to contribute more.

Despite hearing public comments both in favor and against, the Economic Development Committee voted in favor of tabling the issue indefinitely. The proposal will not proceed to the full Quorum Court at this time.

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