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City approves $2,500 for app

Council votes to let union decertify, despite staff suggestion
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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The city is set to ride a wave of technology. The Auburn City Council voted unanimously Monday night to give $2,500 to the Auburn Chamber of Commerce for start-up fees associated with a new Auburn business-related smart phone application. The council also gave the go-ahead for the Auburn Local 39 Stationary Engineers to decertify their union. Councilman Kevin Hanley was absent. Bruce Cosgrove, chief executive officer of the chamber, and Tony Hazarian, 2011 chamber president, gave a presentation about the idea for a new commerce-minded phone app that Cosgrove said the chamber had been seriously considering for about four months. Cosgrove said he thought the app could be very advantageous for the city in bringing more business to those Auburn establishments that choose to participate in it. “As you know, the smart phone is where everybody is going today,” Cosgrove said. “It’s a real opportunity for consumers who have chosen to use smart phones over other media or directories … to get where they are going and find what they are looking for.” The chamber had also given a presentation to the city’s Economic Development Commission, which recommended the council help fund the start-up costs, Cosgrove said. Cosgrove said the ongoing cost of the app would be anywhere from $800-$1,000 a month for chamber staff to maintain it. The amount businesses would be charged every month to participate in the app is not yet known, but would start with at least $1 a month for just the basic business listing service, Cosgrove said. The chamber expects a minimum of 450 businesses to participate in the app with the potential for 1,000 businesses by the end of 2012, according to chamber documents. The chamber is working with the company City AppMaker, based out of Nevada City, and the chamber expects the app to be operational by January, according to Cosgrove. Some features of the app would include GPS directions to businesses, a Hot Deals section with coupons and specials, direct contacts to businesses, links to business websites and more, Cosgrove said. Hazarian said Nevada City, Grass Valley and Chico already have smart phone apps. Councilman Mike Holmes said he thought the chamber should also work with the police and fire departments to see if it would be possible to have emergency notices come through the app as well. Cosgrove said the application was geared toward visitors of Auburn and that it could bring a lot of traffic off the freeway. Auburn resident George Preston said he felt he was fairly technologically savvy, but doesn’t use a smart phone. He said he doesn’t think the demographic of Auburn lends itself to using a smart phone app. “We have a fairly sophisticated and older demographic I would say,” he said. “I don’t have a smart phone, and if I don’t have one, I think a lot of people don’t have one.” Preston said he also didn’t think the chamber had put together a good enough business plan to go forward. Mayor Bill Kirby said he thought a commerce-based Auburn application would be a “winner” but he also didn’t feel a good enough business plan was presented. In other news… The council also voted unanimously to let the 13 members of the Employee Organization for Office and Administrative Support decertify their Local 39 bargaining unit after a September mail-in election showed a permanently laid off employee had been allowed to cast a vote, making the decision a tie. Jon May, building inspector for the city, was one of the appellants of the vote’s outcome and presented the council with a list of signatures of seven employees who wanted to decertify. Although city staff recommended the council call for another election and there was some discussion about how it was known those seven employees had originally voted to decertify, the council went with May’s request for decertification. The issue will come back for an official vote on an upcoming City Council consent calendar. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com