Council debates economic development moves
Tuesday, March 11, 2014 1:00 AM
Around two dozens members of the local business community attended the Van Wert City Council meeting Monday to hear and participate in the economic development discussion. (Times Bulletin/Ed Gebert)
BY ED GEBERT
Times Bulletin Editor
VAN WERT -- Van Wert City Council had regular business to conduct, but it seemed the subject that kept coming up was economic development. Council members met as a committee of the whole Monday night on the subject, and right away it was obvious that not all the members shared the same opinion on the subject.
Third Ward Councilman Jerry Mazur stated he and Second Ward Councilperson Joi Mergy wanted to set up a meeting to negotiate a deal with the Van Wert County Commissioners to put the city's effort and the county's effort into a united front. Mazur also asked for Council President Ken Mengerink to send to OSU Extension a letter of termination of the newly-signed contract and the authority Mayor Farmer used to make the agreement be rescinded. Mazur also requested the council president be named as the sole authorized signature for all contracts. That final request was recognized to be improper as Mazur was told a member of the city administration must have that responsibility and that no council member has enough authority to speak for the city.
Mazur stated, "It is felt that this action, sending a notice of cancellation, will give the council, the commissioners, and everybody interested in where the economic development program is going an opportunity to sit down at the table and hammer out an agreement that is meaningful to our economic development effort."
Mazur asked Mengerink to assign the task of delegating the matter to committee so the process could be started, however, that suggestion was met by immediate protests from Councilmen-at-Large Jon Tomlinson and Stan Agler.
"Where did all that come from?" Tomlinson asked. "Was the intent to talk to all council members [about the requests] or just the ones you decided to give your little speech to, and not me?"
"Not me either," Agler added.
Mazur explained he had not left Tomlinson or Agler out of talks for any particular reason and that he wanted it to go to committee for a full discussion.
Tomlinson told Mazur he felt "blindsided" by Mazur's complaints and requests. Mergy countered she had also felt blindsided two weeks earlier when Farmer announced the drafting and signing of the new agreement with OSU Extension.
The discussion over the matter continued with much of the question focusing on the legality of the newly reworked agreement. Law Director John Hatcher has promised a legal opinion on that matter by the next city council meeting on March 24. OSU Extension has already indicated their lawyers have agreed the new contract is binding.
Mazur stressed the desire to avoid giving negative messages about maintaining an economic development office for the county and another for the city. If council votes to give a cancellation notice on the agreement with OSU, Farmer stated he would veto the action. No official meeting on the matter was scheduled, but the topic will certainly be revisited in the coming weeks. Around two dozen local members of the business community turned out to hear the discussion.
Little other business was conducted at the regular Monday council session, although Farmer noted income tax revenue in the city had increased in February by over $81,000 over February 2013. Phil Burnett and Pete Weir also addressed council about the proposed Renewable Energy Fair which is being planned at the Van Wert County Fairgrounds during the county fair.