Marion County Board of Commissioners discussed changing the direction of its Community Economic Development Corp. during Monday’s meeting.
Chairwoman Dianne Novak said in the last two years volunteers have worked, she’s been hearing from citizens and constituents asking a lot of questions about the results that the county is getting from MCCEDC.
“Since we have almost doubled our existing investment in economic development from past years, and these questions include taking a deeper look into some of these things,” she said.
Novak said she would recommend changing the course of MCCEDC and request all money given to the group be returned to the county.
This past week, Novak said she spoke to Amy Doane, who resigned as the current chairwoman, making her the third chair since the inception of this group.
“Despite all their work and all their struggles that they have been through, they still have a long way to go to get organized,” Novak said. “I just can’t continue to look the other way. This is a lot of taxpayer money we have turned over to them.”
Novak added that the public funds invested so far in the MCCEDC have gone to pay legal and professional fees, and not in direct support of business or job training.
One idea Novak explained involved using grant funding and the possibility of hiring someone to look at capturing those dollars for businesses.
Time for a change
“It’s time to bring this back under the control of the county,” she said. “I don’t see why we should continue down this path.
“Rethink and restructure are some options for this struggling MCCEDC board.”
Commissioner Randy Dallke said that when volunteers are asked to step up and do a lot, he wasn’t sure if they understood how much time it would take to get it off the ground.
“There was a very active board (before them) that tried to get it off them, and they got tired after six to eight months and turned it over to the new board and some of them weren’t too active,” he said.
“When someone assigned a task, they don’t get it done, and that is a problem area, too.”
At one meeting, he said, the question was asked why something needs to be done in such a hurry?
Dallke said because it is taxpayer money, which is why a part-time person was put in place.
Dallke said the group has not spent any money “foolishly” yet.
He added that his original goal is that in a year or two if no progress is being made, then he will look at making the decision Novak is considering.
Novak asked him what he sees happening with the corporation right now.
Too much bickering
Dallke said: “It seems like there’s still a little bickering going on, and that’s not what the whole project is about—it’s for the good of Marion County.
“We are trying to get it to some sources that spend money as they would spend it in their business because people blame government for spending money foolishly sometimes.
“And so that’s the reason why this was started to try getting it to people who regulate business money,” Dallke said.
In addition, Dallke said he didn’t think he could agree with Novak’s decision on restructuring the board.
“I would like to give the board a chance,” he said.
Anthony Roy, who serves as the economic development director of Hillsboro and serves as interim director of MCCEDC, was asked to weigh-in.
“Dianne had a long list of things she talked about, and I am not disagreeing (with her),” he said.
“We thought we had an economic development director hired, but unfortunately he withdrew.”
Roy said the group is hitting the reset and starting from square one again.
“That has been frustrating,” he said.
“The meetings are going very well, but you have one particular member, and I am sure that it’s a member of the board that Randy is chatting with that has done some inappropriate things and misrepresents this board.”
Roy didn’t want to say anymore about that issue other than to say it’s been a struggle and that he’s gone head-to-head with that person.
Having said that, Roy still agreed with Dallke that the board should be given two years to figure out if they are going to make it work.
Novak said: “When Mike Beneke, one of the MCCEDC members, appointed by Dallke, came and made a presentation to the commission, he talked about some of the other volunteers.
“Mike said people don’t make the meetings and have children, but I understand that,” she said.
“I might be harder than those people, but I have always been brought up to believe if something is worth doing, than it’s worth doing right.”
The board deserves people who are going to be dedicated, Novak added, and she understands how much trouble it’s been to even find people to serve on MCCEDC.
Commissioner Kent Becker said he would be willing to give the board a limited amount of time at 90 to 120 days.
Dallke said he was staying with his decision at one to two years and Novak was ready to have the money and control returned to the county.
“Without a director, the board will continue to flounder,” she said.
In other business, the county:
◼ approved the agreement between the county and McGrath Human Resources Group for a classification and compensation study at a cost of about $18,000.
◼ finalized the agreement with Kaw Valley Engineering, Emporia, for its services to proceed with rebuilding the existing transfer station at 320 W. Santa Fe.
◼ reviewed the county’s cafeteria plan with Flex System.
◼ refused to pay Beneke any money for rock he purchased for his road. Jesse Hamm, Road and Bridge superintendent, said he sent a crew to that area specifically to rock the road after Beneke contacted Novak, who then called Hamm about the situation.
Hamm said Beneke told him that he would be reimbursed for the rock from the county by a 2-1 vote.