HOLCOMB — The Holcomb City Council on Wednesday approved a $25,000 payment to the Finney County Economic Development Corp. for the organization’s 2017 funding, which was previously disputed by a council member.

During a December council meeting, Councilman Brian Rupp expressed his concerns about how much the City of Holcomb pays annually in member contributions to the FCDC. It was then that the council came to the consensus to invite FCEDC officials to a January meeting to explain how the organization arrived at the $25,000 amount.

During the December meeting, Rupp claimed the assessment given by FCEDC on its member contributions is 2.5 times higher per capita than what Garden City is paying.

“And that’s just not right,” Rupp said in December. “I cannot for the life of me figure out why FCEDC would even propose that amount. That boils down to Holcomb residents paying $11.66 per person to Garden City’s $4.66 per person. That’s just not right.”

During Wednesday’s meeting, Rupp said he is all for economic development, but he is also for “having the playing field leveled.”

Rupp said he was “shocked” by the number of people who have talked to him about his comments during the December meeting related to the contribution fees.

“I mean, people that I don’t know, and I’ll tell you, I did not have one single comment that was negative toward what I said,” he said Wednesday. “To be more surprising, I bet over a third of those people were people that lived in Garden City. Just the thought of leveling the playing field, there is a lot of people who understand.”

Lona DuVall, president of the FCEDC, and Tom Walker, chairman of the FCEDC board, attended Wednesday’s meeting to answer any questions the council might have.

According to DuVall, the City of Holcomb is one of four contributing members to the FCEDC’s funding.

In 2017, Finney County paid the largest portion at $150,000 (47 percent), Garden City paid $130,000 (40 percent), Holcomb pays $25,000 (8 percent) and Garden City Community College pays $15,000 (5 percent).

Walker said Holcomb has been a contributing member of FCEDC for more than a decade. The $25,000 is a $10,000 increase over previous years, and the second increase in the last 10 years.

“In order to alleviate any confusion, it’s important to note that the $25,000 payment request that was on the agenda for approval was to fulfill 2017’s obligation to the FCEDC. The budget request was submitted to the Holcomb City Council in 2016 in advance of the entity’s budget process,” Walker said during Wednesday’s meeting. “These funds were for economic development activities that were performed in 2017.

All other economic development corporation members submitted their payment in advance, while Holcomb has consistently paid their contribution payment at the end of the year, Walker said.

“We only have four members, and we highly value each one,” Walker said. “We’d hate to lose a member.”

During the meeting, DuVall asked Rupp if he thought Holcomb was paying too much for it’s annual fee.

“Do I think I’m paying too much, or do I think I’m paying the equal amount?” Rupp questioned back. “No, I don’t think I’m paying the equal amount… It’s kind one of those things. I may be fine with paying $25,000 if Garden City is paying $250,000. To me, it’s leveling the playing field.”

During the meeting, Rupp pulled out his wallet from his pocket and told DuVall that the dollars that are going to fund the FCEDC are coming from it.

“It’s coming out of my pocket, his pocket, everybody else’s pocket. If I lived in Garden City, I’d be giving a smaller greenback than if I lived in Holcomb,” Rupp said. “…The thing is, I do not think it is fair for people that live in Finney County, if you live in Holcomb, you’re paying more than what someone living in Garden City is.”

DuVall told Rupp she was not trying to argue during the meeting, but was trying to get the council members to understand Holcomb’s contribution amount, noting that Holcomb benefits from overall economic development in Finney County, as well as sales tax, transient guest taxes, among other things.

"It’s about sustainable, whole growth. It’s about having the amenities that people need. Education is at the top of that list, but as a community, you’ve never had to fund health care. All these other communities have had to fund hospitals, clinics, you name it. You’ve had the benefit of us growing in Garden City to offset a lot of those costs that you would otherwise be responsible for,” DuVall said, noting that Holcomb also has not had to build new roads or put up street lights to accommodate recent developments like Schulman Crossing.

“… I just want to make it clear that what we do benefits everybody, not just benefitting Finney county quite frankly. It benefits the entire region.”

When the FCEDC sets up it’s budget, it looks at all aspects overall, Walker said.

“It’s real hard to say XYZ dollars went to Holcomb, came from Holcomb…” he said. “The $130,000 that the City of Garden City gives us, that does not include all the time and staff efforts, incentives and benefits and everything else that we get for a DFA or transload facility or something like that. All of those contributions from us generate revenue for you.”

After several minutes of discussion between the council and FCDC representatives, the council voted unanimously to pay the $25,000 membership contribution for 2017.

Following Wednesday’s meeting, Holcomb Mayor Gary Newman, who is Holcomb’s FCEDC representative, said discussion for the 2018 payment will come up later when the FCEDC puts in its budget request.

"We will discuss whether we want to pay the full thing or if we want it changed. I think a lot of it is probably dependent on what activities will be going on between the two,” he said.

In other business, new council members Curt Nemechek and Sam Mesa were welcomed to the council. The two new council members were sworn in Monday and replace Mark Richmeier and Scott Homer. Both Richmeier and Homer were recognized during Wednesday’s meeting and were given plaques to thank them for their service.

Contact Josh Harbour at jharbour@gctelegram.com.