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Cities want answers from corporation

Staff writer

Questions continue to linger after representatives from the county, Hillsboro, Marion, and the public met with board members of Marion County Community Economic Development Corporation Monday night.

“There have been an awful lot of complaints in the last several weeks there hasn’t been enough communication with the cities,” board member David Mueller said.

Noticeably absent from the meeting were Peabody city officials. MCCEDC scheduled the meeting in conflict with Peabody city council meeting. Peabody was the first city to commit money to MCCEDC.

Marion and Hillsboro want several corporation bylaws clarified before they completely buy in to participating and funding the corporation formed to promote countywide economic development.

MCCEDC has had trouble filling its permanent board. So far, Mueller, Hannah Bourbon, and Darin Neufeld have been appointed by the county, Peabody, and Marion. That leaves six open positions.

“Fill those blank spots so you have a voice,” Mueller said.

Whether the board accepts without question nominees of the cities and the county is one item Marion and Hillsboro want clarified.

The board started out with bylaws that prohibit cities and the county from nominating employees or elected officials.

The bylaws were later changed to permit employees or elected officials, but reverted to their original version after corporation attorney Josh Boehm said he didn’t believe proper procedure had been used when making the change.

Marion economic development director Randy Collett and Hillsboro economic development director Anthony Roy, executive director of Hillsboro Development Corporation, are ex-officio members of the board.

Hillsboro city administrator Larry Paine said that when Hillsboro city council voted to provide funding to the corporation, the vote had two parts. Council members voted to provide funding and appoint nominees to the board who are elected officials or city employees.

“At this point we’d like to get an idea — is this totally off the table or is it still something that could be done?” Paine asked.

Mueller said he doesn’t see current board members changing bylaws on who cities can appoint, but he can’t say what a future board will do.

Marion mayor Todd Heitschmidt said the city appointed Neufeld and if he’s not voting the way the city wants, they will remove him from the board.

Bourbon drew applause when she said she’d been appointed by Peabody to make decisions on behalf of the county.

“I’ve taken this commitment for the whole county and not just Peabody,” Bourbon said.

Both Heitschmidt and Paine said their cities were not ready to walk away from the corporation. Paine said Tuesday morning he expects Hillsboro city council will take up the matter of making an appointment to the board at its meeting Tuesday. Heitschmidt said he expects Marion city council will discuss the issue of making a second appointment.

Marion city councilman Chris Costello asked if there is a timetable for hiring a corporation executive director.

Temporary board member Tammy Ensey said the board earlier interviewed two candidates, but the board will begin the hiring process again after a permanent board is seated.

Temporary board member Russell Groves said the corporation does not yet have funding in hand to hire an executive director.

Ensey said the board would like to wean the corporation off taxpayer funds.

“We will rely heavily on that director to raise that funding,” Ensey said.

Board members asked officials to draw up a complete list of questions so the board can consult with Boehm.

“You’re asking good questions and we’re going to get them clarified,” Mueller said. “You’re going to get answers.”

The corporation has set up a webpage as a way to communicate with the public, Ensey said. It can be found at mccedc.com.

Last modified Nov. 30, 2017

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