TRAVERSE CITY — Board members for Traverse City Light & Power postponed entering into a $35,000 contract aimed at helping the city-owned utility further relationships with its key commercial customers.
The proposal to enter into a contract with the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce was recommended by Tim Arends, TCL&P executive director. It would involve chamber staff arranging a series of eight targeted meetings with commercial customers, providing regular written outreach efforts, and hosting one larger social and educational event.
The contract would also include offers for the utility’s key commercial customers to receive upgraded premier Chamber memberships and free tickets to events such as the Chamber’s annual dinner, golf outing, and other social and educational activities.
“It’s a pretty expensive price tag for a few tickets,” Mayor Michael Estes said prior to Tuesday’s board meeting. “I thought we had curtailed these types of fringe benefits.”
The proposal appeared to have enough votes to pass but was tabled after Estes addressed the board.
“This is just a glorified status, getting some free tickets for a couple of events in town,” Estes told board members. “Delay the process until you really know what you want the Chamber to do for you.”
Board Chairman Pat McGuire and members Jeff Palisin and Jim Carruthers, a city commissioner, had already spoken against the measure. The three men questioned what exactly they were getting for the ratepayers’ money.
“It seems a little bit squishy,” McGuire said of the proposal.
Arends said the Chamber already has a relationship with the commercial clients and could elicit comments business leaders might not share with the utility. Building these relationships would help the utility meet the customers’ needs and engage them in power conservation measures.
Board members Jan Geht and Bob Spence raised concerns because the proposal did not include any way to measure its success, but both said they would support it for one year.
“I would support it for one year but I would expect some big results and measurables and not foo foo results,” Spence said.
Utility board member and city Commissioner Barbara Budros said having the Chamber involved would be like a “seal of approval on Light & Power ... and very valuable.”
But Budros moved to table it until Arends and Doug Luciani, Chamber president and CEO, could more clearly define measurable goals.
Luciani said he respected the board’s decision.
“If they weren’t comfortable with it and didn’t understand it, they shouldn’t have voted for it,” Luciani said.