Representatives from the Marion County Community Economic Development Corp. spoke with commissioners Monday after learning last week that another candidate for the director’s job turned their offer down.
In addition to losing a qualified candidate to lead the group, Clint Seibel, chairman, said that financial support from Hillsboro and Marion will not be forthcoming in 2019.
“(The candidate) sent me an email that she took another position citing that the struggle to find financial support was the reason,” he said.
The board was disappointed, and will again take criticism of “moving along and not getting anything done,” Seibel said.
“We are doing this as public service on your behalf,” he said. “To carry this whole idea of bringing on an economic development director is not ours, we are picking it up,” Seibel said.
In addition, and according to the MCCEDC bylaws, Seibel said board members were appointed by the stakeholders (Hillsboro, Marion and Peabody) providing financial support.
“Without that support,” he said, “can anyone actually serve? I was appointed by the city of Hillsboro, so I am still good until the end of 2018.
“Adding to that, we also don’t have even full board positions from the county commissioners, he said. “We are in limbo with our board members.”
From the outside looking in, it might seem like a lot of money has been spent, and nothing has been accomplished. It’s what Seibel said he has heard from the public.
“The truth is that this endeavor has been going on for about two years, but most of our board members have been on for a year or less,” he said. “I came on in April serving as chairman and we’ve been playing catchup, but we have been working.”
Regarding the financial-side of MCCEDC, he said, the total amount of money is from Feb. 1, 2017 to date. The money received in various forms is $186,400 and expenses have been $18,400 for a balance of $167,900.
“These are rounded numbers,” he said, “and we do have some anticipated receipts for the rest of 2018, which would be approximately $56,000 from county’s fourth quarter and Hillsboro’s commitment.”
The total by the end of the year is expected to be about $224,600 with minimal expenses to include Katherine Young, a part-time administrator, Seibel said. The offices and utilities are donated by Emprise Bank in Hillsboro.
“The result of the project (the county) initiated is almost three years of volunteer services with people from all over the county,” he said. “So, as we are working to develop a proposal for our prospective director, the board wants to propose the county become our paymaster for salary and benefit package.”
The reason, Seibel said, is the board believes it is more cost-effective then MCCEDC recreating that wheel.
“The process would be simple in that our director would be a county employee, but MCCEDC would sign an agreement with the commissioners for the oversight of the director,” he said. “Out of the funds we receive from the county we would pay back for money put out for this employee.”
One of the concerns by the county in not wanting to bring on a director as a county employee, as Seibel said he understood it, was that the risk was too high.
“My question is if it’s too risky for you, then why as we as volunteers take on that risk? And, do we have support?”
Seibel said the group keeps seeing roadblocks in the way.
Commissioner Randy Dallke said he didn’t understand what the problem was with the director being a county employee.
The county’s attorney, Brad Jantz, said nothing regarding “risk” was discussed at the commission meeting, and he did contact KPERS and the county could be in a bind regarding how it was proposed.
“I think it could be worked out,” Dallke said.
MCCEDC board member Mike Beneke said he asked the commission three to four months ago whether they were at a stalemate, and took it as they were.
“The recent candidate was more stellar, and she had every intention of coming here. We were so hopeful and she would have been a benefit to the county,” he said.
Young told the commission they have a dedicated board, and so many areas the group could help.
Seibel wanted to know if the commission would accept their proposal, adding the board “is still in the saddle.”
Commission chair Dianne Novak said there might be “a little pot of money,” but with other stakeholders pulling out, it looks grim.
“Bringing somebody in from another state, and they make the move knowing there is uncertainty in the budget would be dramatic,” Novak said. “It is a red flag because it cannot come back on just the county.”
Young asked: “Why not? We can live on the county’s funding, and get the work done we need to do. We hope the cities buy into that, but with the county’s money we could live pretty good.”
In answer to Young’s “why not,” Novak said this would come back on the county.
“And, if this would be a county employee with MCCEDC managing it, and the county out of it, then this would become a quasi public corporation with a lot of legal problems.”
Novak also said the proposal to this person was about $72,000, and she believed the commission should have known what’s going on.
“This is taxpayer money, and if this would just be a county project, the county needs to have the oversight and why need the board,” she said. “I don’t understand why we would need to continue in this format is my question back.”
According to information in June 2017 when Russell Groves accepted the chairman’s position on MCCEDC, he described the group and commission as a partnership.
In addition, Groves said it is the responsibility of the group to discuss where they are with the commission regularly.
Regarding the smaller communities, Groves said these towns don’t have the money for representation on the board, but what they do have is information.
The commission and MCCEDC board decided that in this “starting over” phase, Jantz would be included in discussing bylaws and membership.
“MCCEDC is doing the bidding at your request, and so we would like to see support for this,” Seibel said.