HOLCOMB — The Holcomb City Council on Wednesday received its quarterly report from the Finney County Economic Development Corporation, which transitioned into discussion that gave the council a better understanding what what the FCEDC does for the county and the cities of Holcomb and Garden City.

There also was discussion indicating there needed to be better communication between the two entities.

Lona DuVall, president of the FCEDC, along with chairman Tom Walker were on hand during Wednesday’s meeting to discuss the quarterly report.

During past meetings, Mayor Brian Rupp disputed Holcomb’s $25,000 membership contribution to the FCEDC for its 2017 dues, which was a $10,000 increase from the previous year. Rupp has said on multiple occasions that he believes Holcomb’s contribution should be more per capita-based.

After disputing the payment late last year, FCEDC officials visited with Holcomb officials in February, who ultimately approved the $25,000 payment for 2017 earlier this year.

Rupp raising questions about the $25,000 contribution led other council members — Jerry Quint and Nicole Faulconer — to inquire with DuVall and other FCEDC officials to learn more about what the organization does for not just Holcomb, but the county.

“All of our owners are public entities — the City of Garden City, Finney County, City of Holcomb and Garden City Community College — you guys own the corporation… We are the arm that connects you guys to the private sector, and that’s the role of our agency to connect to the private sector, to advocate for your community and for your businesses in the legislature, but also at the state and federal levels...” DuVall said during Wednesday’s meeting. “I don’t think you guys really understood that before..."

Quint said during Wednesday’s meeting that when Holcomb’s membership contribution to the FCEDC was first discussed, he wasn’t aware of all the organization did for the county.

“I didn’t realize they were as open as they were, and when I went, it was an eye-opener for me for what all else they are involved in,” Quint said. “It’s not just out here trying to get a businesses here. There is so much more.”

After learning what the FCEDC does, Quint said he believes the Holcomb City Council made an “uninformed decision” when it disputed the payment.

“I understand what you’re saying about per capita, but we also need to look at the bigger picture…” Quint said during Wednesday’s meeting. “… We do benefit from everything Garden does. You may not be able to see it on the surface, but we do. I think we benefit directly from some of the things they do.”

Faulconer agreed.

“I was just floored when I was learning not just what you guys do for us, but what you can do for us,” Faulconer said. “I am with Jerry, I think its very beneficial…I just don’t think we’re using the benefit that’s in front of us.”

To date, the Holcomb City Council has not paid its $25,000 fee for 2018.

“... Again, I think there’s been some confusion on what you’re paying for is, ‘What can you build in Holcomb for me?’ And that’s really never been the intent of the corporation,” DuVall said. “The intent of the corporation is to represent the county as a whole, and any growth in this county benefits every resident of our county, to different degrees sometimes, but it benefits everybody.”

During Wednesday’s meeting, Rupp said his concerns with the $25,000 payment is the same as it has been — he feels it needs to be more capita based.

“We as a governing body thought $15,000 was a comfortable amount with funding for that… Rupp said. “… We’re held to doing what’s right with the tax dollars of Holcomb, with the Holcomb citizens who pay those tax dollars. So I just don’t know where we’re at with that or what it will take to get that accepted.”

DuVall and Walker presented the council with some potential alternatives on how Holcomb could move forward with its membership contribution to the FCEDC. Alternatives include:

1. City of Holcomb can approve and render payment of their 2018 contribution of $25,000 to FCEDC that was submitted for approval in 2017.

2. The City of Holcomb can request that the FCEDC Board of Directors and the FCEDC Members consider allowing the City of Holcomb to reduce their contribution for 2018 to a lesser amount with the following items to be negotiated at that point:

a. Determination of whether or not City of Holcomb will maintain a board seat if their contribution amount is reduced.

b. Determination of the scope of services that will be provided by FCEDC at the reduced funding level

c. Determination as to whether or not City of Holcomb will maintain ownership in the Corporation or if they will instead enter into a contract for services with FCEDC going forward.

3. City of Holcomb can choose not to approve payment of their 2018 contribution of $25,000 to FCEDC and enter into negotiations with the remaining Members to exit the Corporation.

Another alternative is, should the City of Holcomb opt to negotiate a contribution amount of less than $25,000.00 for 2018, they may choose to enter into a contract for services with FCEDC. FCEDC would suggest the following model for said contract:

1. A minimum contribution of $15,000 would be required upon acceptance of the annual service contract to be valid until the end of the current calendar year.

2. For that contribution, the City of Holcomb would continue to be marketed for housing, commercial, and industrial development projects.

3. Should a property that is either in the City of Holcomb or in the USD 363 taxing jurisdiction be selected for a project, the City of Holcomb will be presented with the opportunity along with a contract to fulfill the project. Each project will be treated individually and will be subject to the standard FCEDC Special Project rate as follows:

a. Project Development Services: $180/hour b. Strategic Analysis/Research: $115/hour

4. Payments for Special Project fees must be paid on a monthly basis upon receipt of invoice until the project is completed.

5. A cap for services may be negotiated. FCEDC Board of Directors would be comfortable with a maximum of $50,000/calendar year.

6. At the end of each calendar year, the Services Contract will be eligible for review and may be renewed if both parties agree.

"That’s not an option we want to see by any means,” Walker said, adding that he and the FCEDC appreciates Holcomb.

According to documents presented by DuVall, the FCEDC has not made a recommendation on how Holcomb should move forward.

Faulconer asked DuVall what would happen if the City of Holcomb was not a member of FCEDC.

“A lot of the things we do for you, no one else is going to do for you,” DuVall said. “If we have a project that has an interest in Finney County, it is our job to show them the best properties they can go to. We invest significant time in those projects and those are the ones that come to us. There are also specific projects that we go after. The dairy plant is a good example.”

Rupp said he appreciates what the FCEDC does, but noted that he has to keep in mind that he is responsible to the taxpayers of Holcomb, and that a $15,000 payment seemed more fair.

DuVall stressed in Wednesday’s meeting that the City of Holcomb is a partner of the FCEDC, though Rupp said he feels that’s not the case.

“I 100 percent do not feel like we’re a partner in this,” he said, adding that he was at a loss for where Holcomb stands with the FCEDC, and what their payment contribution is.

DuVall said the only way to move forward with what was discussed during Wednesday’s meeting was to meet with the other three partners of the corporation.

“All of those members have to be involved in those discussions,” she said.

DuVall concluded that she believes it would be best if there was better communication between the Holcomb City Council and the FCEDC, noting that the first step to achieving that is finding a Holcomb representative for the FCEDC board.

Walker said the FCEDC has gone nearly six months without any representation from Holcomb for its board, adding that the FCEDC has made several requests for Holcomb to provide a candidate, though the requests have gone unanswered.

“That means communication back to the council has been lacking because you don’t have that representation,” Walker said.

Rupp said there are two individuals interested in filling the vacant FCEDC board seat, one of which is councilman Rob Schreibvogel. The previous City Council representative was former mayor Gary Newman, who resigned to pursue a business opportunity in eastern Kansas.

“The thing that we want to impress is we want to keep Holcomb as a member of FCEDC," Walker said. “We want to get the board seat for the city of Holcomb seat filled so you have a voice in the action we take.”

No action was taken during Wednesday’s meeting regarding the FCEDC report, as it was just for discussion purposes.