Fiscal court suggests EDP needs structural change

Published 8:45 am Friday, October 23, 2020

Boyle County Fiscal Court is questioning how effective the local Economic Development Partnership is and how the structure of the organization needs to be changed.

At a recent regular fiscal court meeting, Magistrate John Caywood said he has been giving a lot of thought about how the EDP is functioning and he hoped all of the other magistrates had, too.

“I think there needs to be a new structure,” Caywood said. He recalled that over the years the EDP and fiscal court have had “issues … and I think the structure is part of the problem.”

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He said a while back, an EDP task force had researched how other communities’ economic development agencies worked, “and they said they do it differently,” than how Danville and Boyle County’s EDP functions. However, “I think there’s an effort for EDP to stay in a similar structure,” Caywood said. “I think for us to not listen to what they found out doesn’t make any sense to me.”

Caywood said the county gives “significant tax dollars” to the EDP ($75,000 annually). Therefore, the fiscal court “should let them know what our expectations are, because otherwise, when it comes to budget time … we’re not going to vote the dollars they’ve seen in the past. I think they need to know up front what our thoughts are and what our expectations are.”

Caywood asked the court, “Do we have confidence in EDP today knowing over the last several years what has happened? … This is a vote of confidence. … If we don’t, then we need to look for change of structure.”

Magistrate Jason Cullen said, “Looking back at budget sessions the last two years about being very reserved of how much money we’re going to give EDP. I think that’s a reflection of how successful they’ve been.”

Cullen said if the EDP had met the court’s economic development expectations, then the county would be looking to invest more in EDP. “I believe wholeheartedly change needs to happen.”

Magistrate Jamie Gay said he had served on EDP’s task force which “explored” how other communities handled economic development. “I agree that we need to evaluate the structure. But as I keep saying, I think it needs to be in coordination with our current partnership .. we are one of the partners.”

Gay said, “… a big part of this comes down to the funding of this (EDP) and how we’re going to fund our economic development issues as we move forward. If that’s a new structure, I think it needs to be evaluated carefully and look at things differently. … It will involve a different type of funding structure.”

Caywood said he “compliments” EDP board chair Marty Gipson. “Marty is wanting to do the right thing. But without maybe some guidance from us, he may spend a lot of time and a lot of effort where we don’t want to go and I’m trying to avoid that.”

He added, “Part of the issue is … economic development has changed through the years and we can’t use the playbook that was used in the 1990s, because in 2020, it’s totally different.”

Magistrate Tom Ellis said the previous fiscal court had requested reports and other information about what the EDP was doing to encourage economic development, “and they weren’t to my knowledge, ever done.”

Caywood agreed and said the court had received some information “But I don’t think it’s the detail we originally asked for. We didn’t totally get the information.”

Caywood added, “I’m trying to be very careful with my wording. I think there’s a lot of different areas that need to be addressed.”

He said there were “great volunteers that serve on a lot of committees with the greatest of reasons why they do it. They do it because they love our community and they want to make it the best that we can be.”

However, “I’m not too sure that our society hasn’t changed where we truly need to be, to hold people responsible in these areas, and volunteers may not be the total direction that we need to travel down to achieve the mission that we want to achieve,” in local economic development.

Cullen said the city also has voiced concerns about economic development through the EDP. And has suggested having an economic development workshop for members of the city commission and fiscal court.

“They have the same thoughts and concerns that we have, which is a nice change of pace that we’re working together. So let’s get this going.”

Ellis said the workshop would actually be “an economic summit.”

After the court’s discussion about their disappointment in the EDP, Magistrate Phil Sammons said, “When we’ve got a horse that won’t run, you get a new horse.”