Role of Community Resources eyed
- Published: August 13, 2009
At its Aug. 3 meeting Village Council began a discussion with leaders of Community Resources regarding whether that organization should be the Village’s designated community improvement corporation, or CIC.
A designated CIC is a nonprofit economic development group that agrees to follow certain rules in exchange for being granted some superpowers normally reserved for municipalities. Having a designated CIC allows a municipality flexibility for economic development that it might not otherwise have, according to a Finley’s Ohio Muncipal Service pamphlet that was included in the Aug. 3 Council packet.
While Community Resources describes itself as a community improvement corporation for the village and township, it is not the designated CIC for the Village.
The issue of Community Resources becoming the Village’s designated CIC has come up in recent Council conversations on economic development. While Council President Judith Hempfling has suggested that a citizen advisory board advise Council on economic development matters, Kathryn Van der Heiden, who is an ex officio member of Community Resources but not a Council representative, has repeatedly stated that Community Resources should be Council’s advisory body.
To be a designated CIC, Community Resources would need to follow the designated CIC rules of having open meetings (unless addressing proprietary business information) and 40 percent of its board appointed by a municipal governing body. Currently, Community Resources’ board is self-selecting and most of its meetings are not open to the public.
According to Community Resources President Lisa Abel at the meeting, the group has not yet decided if it wants the designated CIC status.
It’s critical that the organization that serves as the Village’s advisory body have transparent proceedings, according to Hempfling, who said that she several years ago declined an offer to act as a Council representative to Community Resources due to the group’s lack of transparency.
While Community Resources and the Village have worked together in the development of the Center for Business and Education, there is not a sense of a unified effort, according to Council Vice President Karen Wintrow.
“I think the missing link is the partnership,” Wintrow said. “Community Resources has some incredible people, but people here at the table don’t see the partnership. We don’t have the 40 percent at the table that a designated CIC would have.”
Started in 1999, Community Resources has since 2004 focused on developing the Center for Business and Education, and that project, which is not yet finished, remains the group’s focus, according to Abel at the meeting.
Community Resources and the Village have worked together on developing the CBE. Community Resources purchased the 40-acre CBE plot on the village’s western edge in 2004 with a $300,000 no-interest loan from the Village’s Revolving Economic Loan Fund and a $100,000 grant from the Yellow Springs Community Foundation. The loan will be repaid when the commerce park is open for business, which is estimated to be early 2011. Antioch University McGregor, which is currently the only occupant of the CBE, opened its new campus there in fall 2007.
The Village is currently overseeing the construction of infrastructure in the CBE. The village staff needed to take on the responsibility because the project received about $1 million of federal and state grants that had to be administered by a municipality, Abel said. According to Village Manager Mark Cundiff, while the CBE is not officially a Village project, the overseeing of CBE infrastructure has required considerable time from Village Assistant Planner Ed Amrhein.
Community Resources’ current board was chosen by a nominating committee composed of the organization’s past president, Dan Young, and past member Carol Gasho. Board members, who are also the only members of the organization, are Abel of YSI Incorporated; Megan Quinn Bachman of Community Solutions, secretary; Jerry Sutton, retired WPAFB civilian employee, treasurer; David Boyer, WPAFB; Michael Fishbain of Antioch University McGregor; Tim Rogers of Town Drug and Karl Zalar of Friends Care Community.
Council needs the support of a CIC in moving ahead with economic development efforts, Wintrow said.
“These public/private organizations have to start happening,” Wintrow said, adding that, “We have to build trust.”
A lack of trust between some community members and Community Resources needs to be addressed, several Council members said.
“There’s been bad blood along the way that should be buried,” Van der Heiden said.
But the trust issue can’t just buried until it’s addressed directly, according to Lori Askeland.
“I would like to see us move forward with trust but we need some resolution,” she said.
Council will continue the discussion on Community Resources at a later date.
In other Council business:
• Council heard a report from Dan Beverly and Macy Reynolds of the Yellow Springs Tree Committee. The committee has planted more than 2,000 trees in the village in the past two years.
A committee-sponsored analysis of local trees determined that too many maples have been planted, and recommended that the committee hold off on planting more maples at this point.
There are a significant number of ash trees in town that are vulnerable to the ash borer insect, according to Beverly. The insect has already entered Greene County and will probably reach the village within two years, according to Amrhein, who said that Greene County is currently part of a quarantine, which means that it is now illegal for county residents to transport firewood out of the county.
There is treatment for the emerald ash borer, although the treatment can be expensive, according to Askeland, who said that Glen Helen Director Nick Boutis has expressed interest in making the financial investment to save some local ash trees. Others will have to be destroyed if they are subject to insect infestation.
• Council approved the second reading of a variance in the 2009 Village general fund of $44,000, due to higher than expected costs for health insurance and retirement plans.
• Council approved second readings of salary increases for the mayor and Council members, whose salary will increase from $2,100 to $4,000 a year beginning with the November election.