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Chamber responds to open records request

     In an effort to provide transparency to taxpayers, the Pickens Progress requested information about tax money sent to the Pickens County Chamber of Commerce from the Pickens County and City of Jasper governments for economic development. 

The Open Records request came after the legitimacy of Pickens County Economic Development Director Gerry Nechvatal’s dismissal by the Pickens County and Jasper Economic Development Council (EDC) was called into question. 

The county pays approximately $56,000 annually to the Chamber for the Pickens County Economic Development Director position; the city pays $16,200 annually. 

Nechvatal has served as economic development director for a decade. The Pickens County Chamber of Commerce’s legal counsel advised they were not required to respond to the Progress’ request, “but we have decided it is in the best interest of the community, the chamber, and the individuals involved to respond,” according to a written response from Chamber Board Chair Sonny Proctor. 

Below are portions of Proctor’s written response.

Note: This request was sent to the chamber prior to the Pickens County Commission Board’s vote on Thursday, March 15 to continue funding the position, but to require that funding be put into an escrow account beginning April 1. Commissioners voted to start a six-month search for a new economic development director. In the meantime, the  county attorney will review the EDC’s bylaws, which were also the subject of scrutiny, to clear up issues about their hiring/firing powers regarding this position. The chamber’s response addressess the commissioners’ vote.

Jasper City Council has not made any decisions about their portion of the funding. 

Two members of the city council, Sonny Proctor and Anne Sneve, also sit on the chamber board. 

The Progress also inquired about the chamber’s use of hotel/motel tax, which will be addressed in a later article. 

     See chamber's response in this week's print or online editions.