Council slows CBE funding decision making
- Published: November 14, 2013
At their Nov. 4 meeting, Village Council members agreed to slow down a decision on whether to provide about $700,000 in funding for the Center for Business and Education, or CBE.
“I personally feel we do not have enough hard data to know if this is a good decision,” said President Judith Hempfling, at her last meeting before retiring from Council.
Hempfling, Rick Walkey and Lori Askeland voted in favor of tabling the CBE decision, while Karen Wintrow and Gerry Simms voted against. Askeland emphasized that she intended the delay to be a matter of weeks rather than months, but that she, too, felt unprepared to vote.
“This doesn’t mean the project is wrong, but I’d like more time to double-check the numbers,” Askeland said.
The decision of whether to fund the CBE came to Council in September, when Community Resources board member Jerry Sutton made the request that the Village provide the necessary funds to finish the 10-year project, which requires about $700,000 in order to complete the infrastructure so that the property is ready for sale to businesses. Backed by Community Resources, which purchased the CBE land with a $300,000 no-interest loan from the Village in 2004, the project aims at providing space for new businesses that want to move to town, or for current businesses to expand. The 34-acre area at the western edge of town adjacent to Antioch University Midwest is zoned for light manufacturing and office space.
While CR initially obtained almost $1 million in state and federal funding, the project has been dogged by delays, and the largest grant, from the Ohio Department of Transportation, was rescinded earlier this year due to lack of use, leading to CR’s request that the Village finish funding the project.
“This is the Village’s project,” Sutton said on Monday, urging Council not to “delay and disrupt” the project. Time is of the essence, he has said, so that the second grant of about $400,000, from the Army Corps of Engineers, is not also rescinded.
But the CBE is not a Village project, Hempfling said Monday night. Rather, for the past several years, the Village has been partnering with CR on the CBE. But the request for $700,000 moves the Village into a new level of commitment that requires greater due diligence, she said, stating she has been affected by hearing many villagers’ concerns regarding the funding request. Taking the time to look closely at options has worked well for the Village in the past, Hempfling said, using as an example the decision to forego former Manager Eric Swansen’s recommendation for a new $3.1 million electric substation, which after study proved unnecessary.
“I feel badly that we’ve not been asking the critical questions,” she said.
However, other Council members disagreed. Gerry Simms cited some risk as necessary, stating that, regarding industrial parks, “Some communities have had success and some haven’t.” Still, he believes, “We have to take the next step” with the CBE.
“I’m in favor of helping the community grow,” he said.
Wintrow also urged Council to move ahead, citing the CBE as an opportunity to provide more jobs so that more villagers can work where they live.
“For me, sustainability is to live and work in Yellow Springs,” she said. “This is a risk that at the end has significant benefits.”
Former Community Resources member Ellen Hoover, co-owner of MillWorks, also urged Council to move ahead. Stating that “a lot of due diligence was done on this project,” she advocated the CBE as a place for businesses already in town to grow.
“We have some businesses that are going to grow. I don’t think you know where to put them and neither do I,” she said.
Also speaking in favor of moving forward with the CBE was Christine Monroe-Beard and Jean Payne. However, economics professor Frank Goetzke urged Council to slow down and gather more information, stating that if the CBE project is really a viable one, a private investor should step forward to fund it. Chrissy Cruz also encouraged Council to take more time and choose economic development options in line with village values.
Carole Cobbs also urged Council to take the time it needs to make an informed decision.
“If you’re asking taxpayers to take on more debt, you can’t take too much time,” she said.