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“After meeting” heated for NCQC

By John Miller, 11/8/17 10:46 AM

12-30MARY GODWIN 001

PRESCOTT – While the November meeting of the Nevada County Quorum Court was pretty much business as usual, what followed was anything but.

Mary Godwin, executive director of the Prescott-Nevada County Economic Development Office, asked to speak with the court’s budget committee, saying she felt there’s been a lot of miscommunication and wanted to clear things up as to what the EDO does in and for the county.

Godwin brought up JP Ryan Harvey’s comment, made in the budget meeting Monday night, about the city being contacted to pay the entire amount for the EDO which would free up $25,000 a year that could be used to give much-needed raises to county employees. Godwin suggested a lack of understanding as to what the EDO does.

JP George Smith said the budget committee is looking at everything it doesn’t have to pay, and isn’t just picking on the EDO.

The “after meeting” had its fireworks with JP Bob Cummings telling Smith if he wants to “get dirty” he (Cummings) would get dirtier and neither would come out looking good. It appeared to be a case of big brother coming to the rescue as Cummings and Godwin are siblings. Nevada County Judge Mark Glass calmed the two JPs down so the meeting could continue.

Godwin said it’s scary the court considers the EDO, Nevada County Ambulance Service and Hamilton-Blakely Senior Center non-essential. It must be pointed out the budget committee never mentioned the NCAS or senior center.

Godwin talked about helping Dale Booker, the county’s 911 coordinator, with 911 maps and promoting the Civic Ready program, touted Leadership Nevada County, saying all progressive counties in the state have a leadership program, adding it trains local residents to be leaders in the community. She talked about how the EDO has worked on the Civil War battlefield projects, both Elkins Ferry and Prairie D’Ane, saying these two sites have the potential for the economic growth of the county as they’ll eventually bring in tax dollars through tourism. She added, there is a plan that must be followed for the battlefields.

“I’m passionate about my job and it’s hurtful you feel I’m not doing much for the county.”

Harvey said there are people in positions in the city and county who can and are writing grants. He continued saying county employees need a pay raise and asked what they should be told when they’re making 75 cents an hour more than minimum wage. He pointed out the county’s population is declining and businesses have been lost. The idea, he said, is to get people out of poverty and improve the county’s roads. “We’re not spending money wisely in the city or county. We have no money except for the bare essentials. The roads are in bad condition and we can’t afford to buy equipment, but I’m not saying the EDO isn’t necessary.”

Godwin continued, talking about the grants she’s written for the county, adding grant writing isn’t easy as there’s a lot of details involved. The EDO, she said, has built a reputation in the state with different agencies and has only been denied two grants it’s applied for. She talked about working on rural water projects, saying this is an economic boost to the county, especially in the area of agriculture, which is a big industry in the area.

“People,” she said, “think of economic growth as smokestacks in the industrial park.” She added there’s much more to it than just smokestacks, and told how the EDO worked on both the county’s storm mitigation and hazard mitigation plans which would help get Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds in case of a natural disaster. She pointed out not all industrial prospects look at the City of Prescott, adding one is looking at possibly locating in the county at this time.

She talked about the EDO’s involvement in the jail project and how her office still gets calls from other counties asking how Nevada County managed to pass a tax by such an overwhelming margin (84 percent). She talked about getting grant money for the county’s volunteer fire departments and being involved in the creation of the farmer’s market, as well as helping find grants for the Nevada County Landfill, helping get signage for White Oak Lake State Park on I-30, working to get the Nevada County Courthouse on the National Historic Register, which would help with tourism, working to get the old iron bridge renovated, though that fell through and working with Imagination Library.

She was asked if the EDO helped the Prescott School District when it worked to refinance its bond issues. She said she didn’t but wasn’t asked, though she would help if asked. She was also asked about the Potlatch property and why the city purchased it. Godwin said the property wasn’t owned by Potlatch at the time, but by an Alabama timber company that only wanted the equipment located on site. The company agreed to take the equipment and sell the city the land at a reduced price.

Godwin said the property was appraised at $2.8 million, but was purchased for more than $600,000, mostly through grants. Initially, the land was bought to help Firestone store its product locally, she told the court, adding the city has made around $175,000 in lease fees. There is 144 acres with three rail spurs on the land, she continued, which gives the city something else it can market.

She talked about working with the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope to have its welding program at Prescott High School, when it initially wanted it to be held at the Potlatch site, adding she’s working with Sun Paper, Clark County’s economic development group and the PSD on curriculum the plant will need when it opens so students can get jobs right out of high school.

Smith said the committee isn’t saying to cut out the EDO.

Nothing much was done after Godwin finished talking as the court briefly mentioned the budget with Cummings reportedly asking the members present to approve it as it currently exists. This, though, would have been illegal as the budget must be approved in open session during a quorum court meeting.

 

  • Sam Smith

    The citizens of Prescott and Nevada county know the truth. Most don’t care because it’s small town politics at its best and it will never change.

  • Davis Bennett

    Imagine how the county employees feel who DO the county’ s business and are making minimum wage,n have been for 20 years! That’s probably hurtful too! If EDO would provide detailed accounting of projects,accomplishments, n expenses to our citizens, perhaps it’s value would be revealed. That’s the only business here that does not provide financial info.

    • Sara Jones

      Hooray! My son was recently commenting on the large amount of $paid to enter big buck contest that is kept by the chamber. I was told, chamber has to fundraise in order to pay all the bills at the chamber/EDO office. If true, that means Godwin pays no bills and is still wanting more $$$. Does that make sense?

      • FormerChamberMember

        The Chamber and EDO are separate entities. The chamber does fundraisers to support itself and has nothing to do with Mary Godwin’s salary.