Frustrations mount for chamber

Alexis Barker, NLJ News Editor

Newcastle Area Chamber of Commerce President Sandy Martin again approached the Weston County commissioners, this time at the body’s Sept.  6 meeting, to discuss the Weston County Fair Board and her dissatisfaction with the News Letter Journal’s coverage of the issue.  

“Once again, the paper got it wrong,” Martin said. “I was thrown under the bus.” 

She was referring to a previously written story about her Aug. 8 request to have an “under the table meeting” to discuss issues between the chamber and fair board regarding events and communication. 

“You did say it in this room.  … You did say under the table.  … We have the tape,” Chairman Marty Ertman said. 

(The News Letter Journal also has a copy of the recording from the board meeting, which it used to assure accurate quotations.)

According to Martin, Ertman is the person who originally suggested an informal meeting to discuss the disagreement. She noted that the intent was to keep the topic private, as the News Letter Journal was not in the room at the time of the discussion. 

Commissioner Don Taylor said that he thinks the article may have been “off a bit” and that he didn’t recall Martin making some of the comments from the story. He explained though that newspaper staff may not be at the meetings, that minutes and other meeting records can be used to produce stories after the fact. 

The News Letter Journal often uses records or listens to meetings that reporters are unable to attend, according to publisher Bob Bonnar. Over the past two years, Zoom has also become a common platform used by local reporters to watch meetings, including the Sept. 6 meeting at which Martin spoke. 

“This is a very public meeting. We have to put it out there,” Ertman said.

Martin also shared her objection to the stipulations attached to the county service provider funding for the chamber. 

As previously reported, the commissioners cut the chamber’s 1% sales tax funding.

After submitting a request for $10,000, the county allocated $2,300 for the chamber. At this time the commissioners voted to add a requirement that the chamber have someone in the visitor’s center three days a week. 

“Let’s start with the agreement, the service agreement, I kinda feel like strings are attached to this that are not going to work,” Martin said. 

She added that the $2,300 is $191 a month and the county would be paying $2.66 an hour. 

“That’s what you are paying our gal to stay in that office. It is not worth it for what you guys are wanting her to do instead of walking down Main Street and meeting people,” Martin said. “She has been in the office a couple of days a week.”

Ertman explained that the provider of service agreement had been signed and that any changes would require a negotiation and change to the agreement. 

“That’s what our agreement was,” Ertman said, noting that if the board wants to change the stipulations, then a conversation will be necessary.


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