by Angie Asam-Staff Writer
Before the Onaway city commission could even get to its agenda Monday evening they were answering a question concerning reports that the Onaway Area Chamber of Commerce had dissolved.
Lyle Dickenson, representing the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post asked the city during public comment if they would support the VFW taking over the moving Vietnam Wall memorial that the chamber had been planning to bring to Onaway for the Fourth of July. The commissioners were supportive and authorized the city staff to work with the VFW to do whatever it takes to get the wall to Onaway. The city had already approved it when it was a chamber function, before the chamber dissolved.
The Onaway Area Chamber of Commerce was listed as an agenda item for later in the meeting as well.
Commissioner Ron Horrocks used his time during commissioner reports to address the issue. “I do have some comments to make and I am making them not as an elected official but as a citizen of the city of Onaway.
“It’s happened again. A small group that has tried to make the public believe they have run the Onaway Chamber of Commerce under the guise of open honesty, compassion, integrity and morals instead again have punched our city businesses in the gut. The select few have acted only in their best interest and not what this business community is certainly or should be worthy of,” said Horrocks.
He continued “With their great integrity and honesty they have tried secretly another of their deception giving away the chamber equipment to the local volunteer public service authority that are being used to hide this abducted equipment by these individuals, that truly and solely belongs to the chamber of commerce and not any one individual. Now they are using another public service group of local firemen that serves as their Trojan horse, harboring this stolen property. Now does that show public trust, honesty and integrity of this public volunteer organization that needs public monies from city and townships to operate as an area fire department authority?”
“These few chamber board members have misrepresented the chamber members by squandering and extravagantly giving away what does not belong to them. Now hopefully, this will release the blinders off some people’s eyes and they will see the true vitriol annihilation this small group has caused with its tunnel vision, and incomprehensible acts and their continued line of prevarication which now more than ever it is evident that this group could not operate an outhouse if it was given to them totally free with rolls of $100 bills as their paper,” said Horrocks.
His comments continued. “Now they fold, and wonder why people will not donate to the chamber. I guess they could not understand that the chamber is not a political but rather a service organization to businesses in our area,” said Horrocks.
In wrapping up his comments he discussed when the city, a member of the chamber at the time, asked for an accounting of the chamber’s funds they were told it was none of their business. Horrocks questioned why not one chamber member stood up to question the chambers tactics and how they were representing them as a business owner.
Later in the meeting, when reaching the Onaway Area Chamber of Commerce item on the agenda, city manager Joe Hefele had this to say.
“I am going to keep this very short. The Onaway downtown development authority (DDA) is going to meet tomorrow. I have already E-mailed them and they are aware of what the chamber has said has happened, which they say they have dissolved. So the DDA will be thinking about the Fourth of July and us taking that on, at least the parade and fireworks,” said Hefele.
Hefele also discussed that through the 13 years he has been in Onaway at times the city and chamber have partnered on projects that have been a benefit to both groups, including the banners for downtown and the trail map that is available for snowmobilers in the winter.
“I think for the future of the town it is important that the chamber continue to exist and that the city have a strong partnership with that chamber. I think everybody wins in that scenario and I will continue to review what has happened here and hopefully in the end that is where we will be; a strong chamber board and a strong partnership with the city,” said Hefele.
Calls to chamber board members were not immediately returned for this article.