Custody battle begins for control of the proposed economic development switch: Among the many surprises from the economic development proposal was the idea of creating another development authority to guide it, on top of the twin authorities already in place (we’re not counting the other one with ties to Gordon County). A story in Wednesday’s Rome News centers on concerns raised by one of the incumbent boards — the Rome Floyd County Development Authority — and its intent on running economic development if The Big Switch occurs. Among those quoted was member Jimmy Byars of Hardy Realty. From the story:
“What better make up could you have to represent all parties to work together than have this (body), which is representative of everybody in the community?” Byars said. Byars also said the development authority has the financial capacity to take on the role. The authority currently receives payments in lieu of taxes amounting to more than $320,000 from Bekaert, F&P Georgia, HK Shannon, International Paper, Kellogg, Lowe’s, Mohawk, Neaton Rome, STEMCO and Syntec Industries. A portion of those fees are shared with the Development Authority of Floyd County.
The response might have been anticipated since the Rome Floyd County Development Authority was called out in an earlier article, citing concerns with some past chamber chairs who might have been clueless to economic development concerns during their terms in office.
The Rome-Floyd County group is sending letters to the city and county commissions requesting to be the board that works with a planned new hire — an industrial recruiter, replacing the method now spearheaded by the Rome Floyd Chamber.
Our take: Yet another fumble by those attempting to power the economic development change in ramrod fashion. They’re citing a need to meet deadlines as the city, county and chamber have budgets to write with these new duties in mind. The answer should be obvious: Put this change off for a year and take the time to do it right — if at all. The deadlines are artificial.
Chamber retreat delayed? We hear the Rome Floyd Chamber had a retreat set for next week that has since been delayed. It could be for a number of reasons; our guess is members are finally asking questions about an executive committee unanimous vote which basically leaves the dues-paying business group as hosts of annual meetings and an expo, ribbon cuttings, business after hours and some educational opportunities. That committee vote, by the way, has yet to be conveyed to members — yet another fumble. The memos we’ve read say the city and county want to maintain key ties with the chamber. As with any business deal, we urge chamber leaders — and we recommend they be separate from the executive committee — get that new deal with the city and county in specific detail with binding agreements. We’re curious to see what impact The Big Switch might have on membership renewals in 2019 (initial rumblings: significant).
Open Records Request raises new concerns: On Monday, Nov. 19, Hometown Headlines emailed an Open Records Request to the city and county regarding the agendas and minutes of any meetings dealing with attempts to rewrite the way the community recruits new industry and new jobs. The documents received so far comply with state laws dealing with record requests — but basically show nothing.
The county provided its final amended agenda from the Nov. 13 County Commission meeting where the city/county economic development concept was added at the last minute — and promptly approved 5-0 by the commission with nothing more than two supportive emails in front of them, one from the chamber’s executive committee and the other from the Joint Services committee. The county attorney, in his note attached to the records request, said there had been not specific county meetings to discuss said change. That means county commissioners had no data with which to base their surprised and hurried unanimous vote — yet another fumble.
The data from the city shows the topic has been kicked around since 2014 with apparently nothing concrete happening. The first talk of it came at a planning retreat and, based on the records we were given, it sort of stayed on planning retreat agendas since. Whatever happened to bring it to the Nov. 13 Joint Services Committee meeting, the subsequent county commission meeting and then an angry City Commission caucus is not found in any of the records provided. Again, no publicly presented information on what the change would mean. Fumble.
Or simply put: No one has done the due diligence on the true impact on city, county and chamber operations and expenses. At city commission caucuses and development authority meetings, members are asking for specific details only to be told “we haven’t gotten that far yet.”
We’ll have an expanded report on what the Open Records Request produced next week but first want to see additional minutes that have to be approved at this Tuesday’s County Commission meeting.
Caucus ruckus revisited? The tentative agenda is out for Monday’s Rome City Commission meeting (click here) and the economic development changes will be part of the caucus session set for 5 p.m. Monday. The City Commission meeting is at 6:30 p.m. On Nov. 13, it got down right confrontational as The Big Switch was proposed for a vote on that evening’s meeting agenda. Sadly, while the county does keep minutes of its caucus meetings, the City Commission does not. There’s another issue to be addressed next fall as six city commissioners seek new terms.