Councilman seeks to remove EDC “out from under the city”
By LYNETTE SOWELL
Copperas Cove place 7 councilman Charlie Youngs is seeking to bring the Copperas Cove Economic Development Corporation “back under the EDC.”
At the most recent meeting of the city council on March 6, Youngs called for that to be placed on the March 20 agenda for discussion and action.
The CCEDC employees became employees of the City of Copperas Cove on a vote by the city council back in September 2016. Youngs said the city has had almost 18 months to make the transition and make things work, but it hasn’t.
“We’ve lost several full-time directors, but we’re filling a few positions. Most of the staff was cut, we have no recruiting plan, no retention plan, no incubator system in place. We’ve lost the business plan. We lost the EDC public building. Our EDC is pretty much ineffective.”
He suggested fellow council members look at the Sept. 27, 2016 special EDC and council meeting, calling it a “wealth of information.”
Place 2 councilman James Pierce Jr. clarified Youngs’ intent with the request, that it was for discussion only at that time.
“So, two weeks from now, we’re going to discuss and take action on the EDC? We can do better than this…We made the decision almost two years ago to go forward and transition them, and in two weeks, we’re going to talk, talk, talk, discuss and take action on the future of the department?”
Pierce recommended moving the discussion to a workshop and then proceeding cautiously.
“That’s lot on the backs of our city and economic development corporation, about their future. We need to tread slowly and carefully with it, and take care of it…That’s the way we should proceed, instead of making arbitrary and impromptu decisions without all the facts behind it.”
There would also need to be a “transition plan” to remove the employees and all of the EDC’s operations out from under the city, just as there was when the EDC’s employees were transitioned under city operations.
During the prior transition, EDC employees were moved to city hall from the EDC’s former location. The EDC’s email system, websites of the corporation, its data backup, as well as Internet services also became a part of city services, with the city hiring a part-time laborer to maintain the corporation’s facilities and grounds.
Back in 2016, the vote for the change was not unanimous, with place 3 city councilman Dan Yancey voting against it. Yancey is a former EDC board chair, as is current place 6 councilman Marc Payne.
At that time, Yancey called his vote “probably symbolic in nature” and also thought that the plan for the EDC was “a little bit too much within the city’s purview.”
Presently, the EDC reimburses the city staff for any work it does on behalf of the EDC, with that staffing reimbursement agreement also voted against by Yancey in 2016.
The move back in September 2016 put the CCEDC employees under the Copperas Cove city manager as they carried out their day-to-day operations of the EDC.
The EDC at that time had four full-time and one part-time position on its payroll, consisting of executive director, director of business development, director of business retention, office administrator, as well as a part-time office coordinator. The full-time office administrator position was reduced to an office accountant only, as was the part-time office coordinator position eliminated.
One employee has remained on the payroll throughout that entire transition and beyond. Diane Drussell was named interim executive director after Mark Marquez left that temporary position in February 2018. Her prior title was director of business retention.
The EDC board recently approved the addition of a marketing director and an office administrator. The city still has the position of director of economic development department listed as a vacancy, but there has been no action on that position as of yet. Back in November 2017, the Copperas Cove city manager fired Marc Farmer, who had been the executive director of the EDC since May 2017.
The former transition plan including all its elements had been approved by both the EDC board and the council, with the council receiving regular updates on the transition from the city manager.
The transition wasn’t without its bumps, with then interim executive director Monica MacKay submitting her notice of resignation in November 2016, about six weeks into the EDC’s employees being under the city manager. She was let go from her position the same day.
Originally established in August 1990 by Copperas Cove voters as a 4A sales tax corporation, the EDC and its employees operated separately from the city yet still under the city council’s direction. Currently the corporation receives three-eighths of a cent of the city’s two cents of sales tax revenues every month.
Its current budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year is $5,129,611, which includes a projected $1,189,375 in revenues from sales tax and bank account interest. $385,775 of the current budget goes to operations, which was recently increased by the EDC board and city council, who approved the addition of two positions to include a marketing director and an administrative position.
The just over $2 million remaining in the budget is dedicated to the future land swap with Fort Hood, the EDC debt payments and reliever route commitment, and The Narrows Business & Technology Park. The EDC board recently approved amending its budget to include the costs for clearing The Narrows.