FARMINGTON — Franklin County Chamber of Commerce members have decided to keep the organization open despite its bleak financial outlook, hoping to find a way to reverse recent drastic declines in membership, a chamber official said.

In a 54-15 vote, members on Wednesday rejected a plan favored by a slim majority of chamber leaders to dissolve the group and sell off its assets, according to Ivan Gould, chamber board president.

The decision has set the stage for a meeting next week where members will devise a plan to try to save the chamber, which is in danger of running out of money soon without some significant changes, Gould said.

“Everybody would like to see the chamber stay open, but now it’s a matter of how do we accomplish that,” he said.

Because annual membership dues are the primary revenue source, the chamber is struggling to recover after losing 81 members this year, Gould said. He said they had 256 members last year, which provided enough revenue to support the operation.

There is about $26,000 left in the chamber’s operating budget, which is enough money to last about five months, based on a scaled back approach to providing chamber services to members and the community alike, Gould said.

That estimate is based on not replacing a vacant executive director position, the chamber’s only paid full-time employee who runs most of the daily operations, he said.

Gould noted many members at the meeting this week supported filling the full-time position vacated last month after Stacie Bourassa resigned to take a job with the United Way of the Tri-Valley Area.

Chamber board members looked at cutbacks to save the chamber, including finding a new rental space for the chamber offices and making the executive director a part-time job, Gould said.

But these solutions failed to address the pressing financial shortfalls and threatened some vital chamber services, he said. The board consists of 24 local business people who volunteer to serve after being appointed by the membership.

In the short-term, chamber members may have to volunteer to run some daily operations to keep the group open in the short-term, Gould said. He added that long-term fixes would have to involve attracting new members.

The planning meeting will be Wednesday at 5 p.m. at the chamber offices on Wilton Road in Farmington.

David F. Robinson — 861-9287

[email protected]

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