By Joel Phelps
A packed Clark County Circuit Courtroom listened Monday as justices of the peace ironed out a pair of ordinances dealing with tax funds set aside for economic development incentives.
The Quorum Court had two ordinances up for consideration, the first being the original draft that creates an account for the Economic Development Corp. of Clark County to pool new funds from the 1/2-cent sales tax voters OK’d earlier this year. The second, drafted by Justice Jenna Scott, added language that would have included some guidance on how those funds would be spent — with oversight from the court.
The first ordinance was on its final reading before adoption for Monday’s meeting, and Scott’s version had been included for consideration in the agenda packet.
At County Judge Troy Tucker’s request, county attorney Todd Turner explained that the first ordinance was drafted “simply to appropriate the new tax money to the EDCCC to hold separate from existing funds. Clearly the quorum court is responsible for all that tax money and how it’s spent, so there’s going to have to be guidelines and rules governing the expenditure of those funds.”
Turner said he met with Scott prior to the meeting about her ordinance. “That ordinance takes a start at identifying the expenditure of those funds, which is separate of what we’re trying to do with [the original] ordinance, which is where these funds will go right now,” Turner said, adding he recommended that Scott withdraw her ordinance.
Scott did just that, but offered a statement prior to doing so. “Clearly there was a lot of public interest,” she said, referring to the 35 or so citizens who showed up for Monday’s otherwise light agenda. “And the intent of my ordinance was simply to provide those guidelines as a starting point and really to just do w hat the voters were promised as we passed this tax. They were told repeatedly that the quorum court would establish the guidelines and that we would be responsible for making sure those guidelines were followed.” Scott added that she had no qualms with the original ordinance, but had constituents reach out and voice concern about the guidelines being in place.
Scott later added that the intent of her draft was to require the guidelines be set before the EDCCC was able to spend any of the tax coffers.
A motion to adopt the original ordinance passed 10-1, with Justice Albert Neal casting the only dissenting vote.
With Scott’s ordinance tabled and removed from the meeting agenda, Justice Tom Calhoon requested there be a timeline for setting the EDCCC’s guidelines in the event the 15-member EDCCC have an urgent need to use funds from that account. Tucker appeared to be in agreement with that notion, as it would “put the pressure back on the EDCCC” to submit the guidelines “and get back to this court so that you can [decide] if they need those funds.” Tucker said Kevin Jester, EDCCC’s chair, has formed a committee of citizens to aid in setting those guidelines. “I would anticipate they will be back soon with those guidelines,” Tucker told the court.
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