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Economic development strategies eyed

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At their May 5 meeting, Village Council members heard a presentation from a Greene County official regarding the county Port Authority, a potential new tool for economic development.

“There’s a lot of excitement about what can be done with the Port now that it’s revamped,” Greene County Director of Economic Development Pete Williams said regarding the Greene County Port Authority, which is an arm of the county development office that can aid commercial development by providing lending and other resources.

The Port in recent years has been largely dormant due to the recession, Williams said in an interview this week, but is now being revived due to an uptick in commercial projects.

Governed by a board selected by the Greene County Commissioners, the Port offers several ways to enhance commercial development, such as offering an exemption from sales tax for construction materials or issuing tax exempt bonds to fund a development. The Port can also provide developers a “synthetic lease,” similar to a land contract, in which the Port owns the building for a period before selling it back to the developer, Williams said.

“The Port brings different tools to the table,” he said at the meeting.

However, because the Port’s funding ultimately comes from banks, it is constrained by the same factors as banks are in the Miami Valley’s still-recovering economy, Williams said this week. For instance, it’s unlikely that start-up businesses would be deemed stable enough to receive a Port bond issuance, although a new business might benefit if a more stable business was able to develop property, from which the start-up could rent.

The Village is not considering developing its own Port, but rather making use of the county entity, according to Council members. The item was discussion only at the May 5 meeting.
In another economic development-related discussion, Council members decided to postpone establishing a task force to look into whether it makes sense for Yellow Springs to have a designated community improvement corporation, or CIC, as proposed by Council members Marianne MacQueen and Gerry Simms. While the local nonprofit Community Resources acts as a CIC in some ways, it does not have the “designated” status that would provide more government oversight for the group.

However, Council has “too much on its plate,” at this point to establish a new task force, according to Council President Karen Wintrow, who suggested putting off forming a new group until the new Village manager is hired. MacQueen and Simms said they would continue researching the issue on their own.

In other Council business:
• Council returned to the issue of how best to address subpar roads in the Fair Acres addition on the north edge of town.

The problem is that Fair Acres, when constructed, was developed in a faulty way, so that sewer and water lines are too close to the surface. Consequently any meaningful street repair would involve also replacing those lines, at a cost of at least $800,000, according to Wintrow. Council has at recent meetings heard from Fair Acre neighbors that they want the street repair as soon as possible. And while funds for a surface repair are in this year’s capital budget, Council still lacks sufficient information to know how best to address the problem, or what the ultimate cost will be, Wintrow said, suggesting that an engineering study would be helpful.

Council members agreed that as a next step Interim Village Manager Kent Bristol will walk the neighborhood with Streets Crew Head Jason Hamby, along with several neighbors, to identify the scope of the problem.

• During Citizens Concerns, villager Crissy Cruz asked for an explanation of Bristol’s statement at Council’s last meeting that the Village budget surplus is larger than previously known — $7.5 million rather than $6 million. That percentage of surplus, which is more than 50 percent of the Village budget, is considerably larger than that of surrounding communities, Cruz said, stating that the large surplus seems at odds with the Village’s concerns about deficit spending.

Bristol said he can’t explain what caused the unexpected surplus, but that “the books were a mess” when Finance Director Melissa Vanzant came on the job, and it’s taken four months to figure them out. Regarding deficit spending, Bristol stated that even with the large surplus, the Village is deficit spending because it’s taking in less money than it’s spending.

Council member Lori Askeland said she’d also like greater clarification regarding the budget surplus, and Council agreed that Vanzant will present a summary at the May 19 meeting.

• Council’s next meeting will be Monday, May 19 at 7 p.m. in Council chambers.

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