County backs JC-INVEST; uncertainty over next step
Wednesday, April 24, 2013 11:00 AM
Looking past the issue of ordinance vs. inter-local agreement, county officials said Tuesday they support the concept of Mayor Damon Welch's proposed Jefferson County economic development advisory board.
The Board of Commissioners and County Council met in a joint session to discuss the proposed city ordinance that would create the panel, JC-INVEST.
The meeting began with the county officials intending to establish a resolution in favor or against the proposed city ordinance, but the group could not agree on an official motion.
After an hour discussion, without an official vote, the board said it supported the core idea of JC-INVEST but believed the proposal needed some work.
Several county officials again voiced support for an inter-local agreement between the county, city and Hanover- but differed on whether to enter into the deal upfront or later in the process - and raised concerns about potential funding. County Council members Joe Craig and Kevin Britt were absent, but did submit written statements.
"Nobody is 100 percent satisfied with that document," said council president Bill Hensler.
But he also said the point of the meeting was to take a poll of county officials to give the city a better "road map" for moving forward.
Under the current version of the proposed ordinance, JC-INVEST would include five elected officials - the mayor, a City Council member, County Council member, Board of Commissioners member and Hanover Town Council member - which would be called the Executive Council. The five representatives would be the only voting members on the board.
In addition to the voting members, the board would include sector advisors in tourism, downtown development, small business, education, industrial development, agriculture and quality of place.
The board would operate with no budget and all votes would be non-binding.
Attending Tuesday's meeting, Welch said he was amazed by some of the "misinformation presented" about the proposed panel.
Since he began evaluating Economic Development Partners shortly after he took office, Welch said he felt like such an innovation was the next step to address all areas of local economic development in Jefferson County, which meant working closely with Hanover, the County Council and Board of Commissioners.
The most recent JC-INVEST proposal was revised at the City Council's last meeting to add an agriculture representative and to reduce voting powers to elected officials - requests made during the County Council and Board of Commissioners joint meeting two weeks ago.
The new proposal also includes an amendment that calls for inter-local agreement between the government bodies if the JC-IVEST begins operating under a budget.