Monday, November 24, 2014

Hugo defends decision to Commissioners

By Will Bublitz

Representatives of the Town of Hugo presented their reasons for refusing to pay any more funding to the Lincoln County Economic Development Corporation (LCEDC) starting next year to the Lincoln County Commissioners at their Monday, Nov. 17 meeting.

“We don’t think it’s right for one government to bail out on the others without explaining the reasons,” Hugo Mayor Patsie Smith said. “We thought we owed you an explanation.”

Smith was accompanied by Trustees Dave Dobbs and Bill Rusher. Also present was Ben Orrell, president of the Hugo Economic Development Group (HEDG), and Brenda Dutro, vice president of the Hugo Improvement Partnership (HIP).

Jim Herron, LCEDC’s president, was in attendance at Monday’s meeting.

Monday’s discussion with the commissioners was prompted by the Hugo Board of Trustees’ decision at its November 10 meeting to not include any funding for LCEDC in the town’s 2015 budget.

Although the trustees agreed to make the second half of the town’s annual payment of $5,840 to LCEDC for 2014, they unanimously agreed not to make another contribution for next year.

During Monday’s commissioners meeting, Smith said the town had decided to “opt out” of financially supporting LCEDC because of a lack of performance and accountability.

“We’ve been in this (financially supporting LCEDC) since its inception,” she said. “We’ve not seen many results. I know economic development is a very difficult thing to measure. Part of the problem that I’ve personally seen is the accountability part. I know they’re working on it, but we haven’t seen a lot of accountability of what’s going on. A lot of the reports are fluff and filler in my opinion.”

Smith went onto list a number of problems with the performance of LCEDC’s current executive director. Because of these problems and a lack of results, she opposed further financial support.

“I just could not recommend to my board that we spend more Hugo tax money on it next year,” Smith said.

Dutro supported Smith’s claims, saying LCEDC’s executive director had promised to set up small business training sessions but nothing had happened. “We just don’t feel Hugo is getting much out of it,” she said.

Rusher agreed, saying the Town of Hugo wants to “make sure we get something for our bucks.”
As for finding a solution, Smith and Dobbs suggested the commissioners consider turning the economic development director into a county employee position. The director would report directly to the commissioners and be under their supervision.

“At the state level, they appointed an economic development coordinator four years ago and we’ve all seen the results,” Dobbs said. “Colorado’s economy is moving. Lincoln County has tons of opportunity that it’s never had before. It would be great if we had an economic developer that reported directly to you guys. That would be some accountability, especially if there were financial strings to that position.”

LCEDC was formed and began operating in 2005. It receives most of its funding from the Lincoln County Commissioners, as well as the towns within the county. It has a seven-member board of directors.

The stated purpose of LCEDC is to attract new businesses and industry to the county, as well as providing support to existing businesses and job creation.

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