July 8, 2024 at 3:16 p.m.

County denies funding without contract

JCDC and commissioners continue to be at odds


If Jay County Commissioners and Jay County Development Corporation can’t agree on a contract for this year soon, funding may not be allocated to the organization in 2025.

For now, this year’s funding is still being withheld.

Commissioners heard a request Monday from JCDC board president Angie Paxson and executive director Travis Richards to disburse county funds for the first half of 2024. The county and JCDC have yet to come to a contract agreement for this year.

In May, commissioners shared additional stipulations regarding a potential contract with JCDC. The list includes a reduction in JCDC board’s voting membership to between nine and 11, requiring the board to meet monthly or as needed and stipulations about Richards’ and community coordinator Nate Kimball’s duties.

Paxson explained Monday that JCDC board’s membership is in line with partners in six other counties and two other organizations. She noted it has identified two board members that have had issues with attendance and shared other updates, pointing out that the board is ready to form a subcommittee to discuss the stipulations in detail.

She requested the disbursement of county funds for the first half of 2024 as a good-faith gesture.

Commissioners president Chad Aker noted the county OK’d funding in 2023 on similar terms prior to putting a contract in place and expressed a desire to come to an agreement before committing funds.

Both Paxson and Richards noted a few times during discussion Monday that JCDC has shared a signed contract with commissioners, but commissioners decided not to move forward with it.

Aker reminded Paxson and Richards that the county shared its new stipulations in May.

He said the group could host special meetings instead of waiting for its regularly scheduled meetings to discuss the items and facilitate the process more quickly. Aker pointed out the county has to develop its budget for 2025 soon.

Richards asked what next year’s budget has to do with this year’s funding.

“Are you saying that you don’t look to put anything in the 2025 budget if we don’t come back with these 13 things by August?” asked Richards.

“That’s what I’m saying is, if you’re not willing to come into a contract with us, we’ve got to look at different avenues,” responded Aker.

McGalliard noted there are other avenues for economic development.

Paxson repeatedly expressed frustration that commissioners continue to offer new stipulations and requests in a contract with JCDC. Richards voiced similar concerns.

“This is not the only list we’ve had, we’ve had multiple lists from you all of things you would like us to change,” he said. “So, where does it end?”

Aker said the recommendations commissioners shared in May are their final requests. McGalliard later expressed other desires of the group, saying he would like to see “serious change” of the organization before approving a contract with it.

“You understand why I’m confused,” said Paxson. “What I’m afraid of, we put the time in for these 13 points, present you the contract, have (county attorney Wes Schemenaur) revise it … and then you’re going to list something different.”

After a lengthy discussion, Journay made a motion to grant Paxson’s request. His motion died on the floor for lack of a second.

Earlier in the meeting, commissioners also aired concerns about items they would like to see JCDC working toward.

McGalliard shared a compilation of labor force statistics he said came from Indiana Department of Workforce Development. Comparing the numbers from 2014 to 2024, he noted the labor force has dropped by just over 1,500 people.

“What are we doing to get our labor force back?” he asked.

Richards explained that as the population declines, so does the workforce. He mentioned quality of life aspects, such as expanding reliable internet, childcare and working on infrastructure. He referenced state funding programs the county is pursuing, such as the Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI) 2.0, Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program, and other local projects, such as expanding Penn Township Library.

McGalliard suggested JCDC take labor force statistics into consideration for future plans in the county.

Referencing the housing shortage, Aker and McGalliard pointed out the housing task force has not met since the county purchased 68 acres of land on the western edge of Portland along Indiana 67 in early 2023.

Aker asked JCDC to work with the county regarding the development of the 68 acres, which is a project that was submitted for funding through READI 2.0. (East Central Indiana Regional Partnership was awarded $35 million through READI 2.0 to be distributed throughout the region.)

“It would be great to work together,” responded Richards.

Later in the meeting, McGalliard noted the county needs to submit a final application for its READI 2.0 project prior to Aug. 2. He pointed out a section in the application asking for how many public, private or philanthropic funds have been secured to date for the project, and he suggested the county would have a better chance of securing more dollars if it committed other funding toward the project. He shared plans to get cost estimates later this week for the project and emphasized county officials act on the matter quickly.

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