Chamber Readying Debt-Payment Plan

The Thousand Oaks Chamber of Commerce is poised to announce a plan to repay about 50 vendors close to $80,000 it owes them, officials said Tuesday.

Chamber board member Gary Wartik said the announcement regarding "a source of funding to resolve our issues with trade vendors" may come by Thursday, depending on negotiations with the funding source.

"It should make the vendors quite pleased," said Wartik, a business consultant and member of the chamber's executive committee, who is working without charge to help the chamber retire its debt.

Wartik said the money to repay vendors will not come from the city of Thousand Oaks, but declined to offer details.

"I can say that we're moving in the right direction. We're getting back on track," Wartik said.

The Thousand Oaks chamber is struggling to recover from slightly more than $100,000 in debts, including the $80,000 owed to businesses such as janitorial services, caterers and printers. Many of the businesses are chamber members.

The remainder, about $25,000, is owed on the chamber's mortgage for its building at 625 Hillcrest Drive.

Chamber officials say the trouble resulted from declining membership, compounded by inaction in confronting the effects of the recession of the early 1990s.

Although the city will offer no help in repaying vendors, it may consider helping the chamber clear up its mortgage debt, said Bob Biery, city finance director. He will offer a report to the council March 24 on possible assistance to the chamber.

Councilwoman Linda Parks said she would be leery of any city proposal to bail out the chamber.

Rather than having the city offer any significant financial assistance, Parks said the "well-heeled" members of the chamber would be a better funding source.

"There are some major developers out there that could help with this issue," she said.

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