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JC-INVEST: Some in county want inter-local pact
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Wednesday, April 10, 2013 11:00 AM
The Jefferson County Council and Board of Commissioners met in a joint meeting Tuesday to discuss Madison Mayor Damon Welch's plan for an economic development advisory board.
The City Council and mayor have discussed the makeup and structure of the proposed Jefferson County Indiana Vision and Economic Strategy Team, or JC-INVEST.
The mayor has proposed that JC-INVEST have five elected officials - the mayor and representatives from the City Council, County Council, Board of Commissioners and Hanover Town Council - and six representatives from industry sectors. All would have voting powers.
The mayor is calling for sector representatives for industrial development, workforce development/education, small business, downtown development, tourism and quality of place.
While several county and city elected officials spoke in favor of an advisory board during a joint meeting in March, not all of them share the same vision for its structure.
On Tuesday, county representatives said they felt the board should include areas of emphasis such as agriculture and that the sector representatives should not be voting members of JC-INVEST.
All members of the County Council - except President Bill Hensler - and the Board of Commissioners attended the meeting.
County Council member Larry Wynn said the JC-INVEST voting duties should fall to those who are selected by the public.
Additionally, Wynn said the creation of JC-INVEST should come through an inter-local agreement and not a city ordinance. The City Council has used its last few meetings to discuss JC-INVEST in the form of an ordinance.
Wynn said an inter-local agreement would allow for control from all government bodies affiliated with the board.
"If the City Council passes an ordinance, to me that is saying that they still really control it," he said.
Hanover resident Warren Auxier agreed with Wynn's concerns, which also were shared by other County Council members and the commissioners.
"If you would start the path of inter-local agreement, you would start with a document that is going to move back and forth," Auxier said.
Madison resident Larry Henry said that after an inter-local agreement, the next step should be a community comprehensive plan to create a marker or direction for future development. He said such a plan could open the door to community grants.
Both Auxier and Henry said they appreciated the county's effort to sit down and discuss the changes specifically and in an open forum.
During the meeting, the officials spent several minutes discussing how to retain businesses, appeal to new companies and expand education for local labor positions.
Many said they felt businesses need to market to local students who wish to join the workforce after high school. At the same time, the officials said students need to attain the technical skills employers require.
Commissioner Mark Cash said youth are sometimes given the false idea that a manufacturing career is not a viable option.
"Manufacturing is alive and well in Jefferson County," he said.
Another topic was the funding formula between the county, city and Hanover. County Council members said they had yet to see a financial proposal for the implementation of the board.
"That's generally where it's going to be the sticking point, but we've kind of ignored it," said County Council member Kevin Britt.
City Council members Kevin Kellems and Rick Berry also attended Tuesday's joint meeting. Earlier this month, Berry proposed the joint meeting between the County Council and Board of Commissioners.
Regarding the JC-INVEST plan, Kellems said his main concerns with the new direction were finding out where the county stands on the possible changes, the public consideration and the structure of the board.
He considered the county's comments a step in the right direction. The City Council representatives said they would relay the information back to the mayor, who was not at the meeting.
"I don't really see this as a city vs. county thing but a challenge of how we bring this together," Kellems said.
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