City and County

Justices to consider EDCCC guidelines

By Joel Phelps
The Arkadelphian

“These guidelines do not address the accountability that was also promised to the voters.”

— Justice Jenna Scott

Justices of the Peace in Clark County will continue discussions Monday about how another public body will be able to spend a 1/2-cent sales tax to attract jobs.

In new business, the quorum court will hear an update from the Election Commission on new redistricting maps for the 2020 Census.

Library CARES Act award
The Clark County Library received $39,217 from the Library CARES Act, and library director Betsy Fisher is requesting JPs appropriate those funds into the 2022 budget.

Fisher is requesting the court to put $4,417 of the award money toward E-Book reimbursement; $7,130 toward sanitizing stations and HEPA filters; $21,000 toward an indoor book drop, book sanitizers and an outdoor book return; and $6,670 toward personal protection equipment and sanitation supplies.

EDCCC bond report
Treasurer Karen Arnold is requesting to speak to the court in regards to the bond activity and the EDCCC receipt and disbursement.

EDCCC guidelines
Next on the table will be Ordinance 2022-01, titled ‘An ordinance approving guidelines and rules governing the use of tax proceeds by the Economic Development Corp. of Clark County’. 

“It was promised that small black businesses will be be included. I do not see anything stated in layman’s terms to define the aforesaid. I am disappointed.”

— Justice Albert Neal

Clark County voters in June OK’d a ballot measure to collect a 1/2-cent sales tax for two purposes: 
• To pay and secure the repayment of bonds approved by the voters and issued by the county from time to time to finance capital improvements or economic development projects; and
• To fund and promote economic development projects and activities to stimulate the local economy and to support the creation of new job opportunities.

When the original tax passed in 2008, the projected annual revenue for the EDCCC was $1.65 million. The original guidelines allowed the recruitment of only primary jobs.

The guidelines proposed with the money collected from the new ballot measure, if approved by the court, would give the EDCCC the freedom to attract more than just factory jobs.

In the EDCCC’s December meeting, the 15-member board of directors gave the nod to guidelines previously prepared by a subcommittee. The guidelines are as follows:

Section A
The proposed guidelines would allow tax funds to attract corporations, associations, institutions, individuals or public entities to undertake an economic development project, provide economic development services or for infrastructure including without limitation for construction, reconstruction, demolition, site development, contracts and related costs associated with the creation, expansion and rehabilitation of utilities (water, electric, telephone, fiber, cable, waste, waste management and landfills, streets and roads, bridges, trails, paths, recreational facilities, drainage, landscaping and beautification and other vital or desirable public facilities).

It would also allow tax funds to be used as a pledge to secure the issuance of bonds to finance capital improvements or economic development projects.

Section B
The guidelines define economic development projects as the land, buildings, furnishings, equipment, facilities, infrastructure, improvements and program support for development, retention or expansion of manufacturing, production and industry; research, technology and development; recycling; distribution centers; call centers; warehouses; job training; state, regional or national corporate headquarters; sports complexes designed to host local, state, regional and national competitions, including without limitation baseball, softball and other sports tournaments; outdoor recreation; healthcare facilities in connection with any plan or project to make Clark County a hub for healthcare services, research or technology; education facilities or programs in connection with any plan or project to make Clark County a hub for any specific or discrete educational program; cultural heritage; retail; and entertainment.

Economic development services include: planning, marketing and strategic advice and counsel regarding job recruitment, job development, job retention and job expansion; supervision and operation of industrial parks or other such properties; negotiation of contracts for the sale or lease of industrial parks or other such properties; contracts with any corporation, association, institution or individual to undertake or oversee the day-to-day work of economic development; employ and compensate agents, architects, planners, engineers, accountants and any other person as may be required for activities and projects; incur administrative and research and development costs; conduct and incur costs for feasibility studies, environmental impact studies, marketing studies, labor shed studies, resource studies and other studies; and, to the extent permitted by law, small business loan guaranty or reuse fund programs.

The guidelines define economic development service as: planning, marketing and strategic advice and counsel regarding job recruitment, job development, job retention and job expansion; supervision and operation of industrial parks or other such properties; negotiation of contracts for the sale or lease of industrial parks or other such properties; contracts with any corporation, association, institution or individual to undertake or oversee the day-to-day work of economic development; employ and compensate agents, architects, planners, engineers, accountants and any other person as may be required for activities and projects; incur administrative and research and development costs; conduct and incur costs for feasibility studies, environmental impact studies, marketing studies, labor shed studies, resource studies and other studies; and, to the extent permitted by law, small business loan guaranty or reuse fund programs.

Infrastructure is defined in the ordinance as land acquisition; site preparation; road and highway improvements; rail spur, railroad, rail port and transload facilities; water service; wastewater treatment; employee training (which may include equipment for such purposes); environmental mitigation or reclamation; trails, paths, marinas, boat ramps, parks and boardwalks; electric, gas, telephone, fiber and cable; and waste, waste management and landfills.

Section C
The EDCCC may develop further rules and regulations, not inconsistent with these guidelines, for the purpose of evaluating individual economic development, economic development service or infrastructure projects.

Those rules and regulations would address: the priority of economic development, economic development service and infrastructure projects in light of targeted economic development sectors, job creation, business retention, improving economically distressed communities and neighborhoods and impact on existing businesses; maximum dollar amount incentives; minimum qualifications of applicants; and documentation required to be submitted by an applicant.

Section D
For the protection of trade secrets, the privacy interest of applicants for economic development incentives, and the efficient conduct of economic development activities, the EDCCC may contract the day-to-day economic development activities, investigations, studies, application process or other activities to the Arkadelphia Regional Economic Development Alliance or such other corporation, association, institution or individual it deems necessary or expedient.

Language in the ordinance indicates that the EDCCC chair “shall notify the Quorum Court of any modifications to these rules no later than 30 days from any change.”

The guidelines have been the source of discussion and disagreement among justices in quorum court sessions, with two justices — Albert Neal and Jenna Scott — voicing disapproval of how they were written.

The 1/2-cent sales tax and the EDCCC were byproducts of the Clark County Strategic Plan, the 2007 brainchild of Arkadelphia physician Dr. Wesley Kluck. Following the EDCCC’s unanimous nod for the new guidelines to go to the quorum court, Kluck sent an email to each JP asking for their support of the proposed guidelines as written by county attorney Todd Turner. “The guidelines are a result of several community groups that met and gave input,” Kluck wrote in his email. 

Scott was the first JP to respond: “I do appreciate your work and the work of others toward these guidelines,” Scott wrote. “They address how funds can be used and they do allow opportunity for some minority businesses (that were previously excluded) to apply. As this was discussed during meetings to promote the tax, it was important that we create guidelines that would allow them an opportunity.  

“But, these guidelines do not address the accountability that was also promised to the voters. As it was promised repeatedly that the Quorum Court would be responsible for accountability, I am trying to ensure that this promise is kept. I will continue to work toward this.”

Neal also responded negatively to Kluck’s email, saying: “I do not agree with how the tax is outlined to be utilized. It was promised that small black businesses will be be included. I do not see anything stated in layman’s terms to define the aforesaid. I am disappointed.

“I believe that the EDCCC should treat all citizens in a manner that is rationally related to the effectuation of legitimate county objectives, and uniformly applied to all persons similarly situated.”

Scott and Neal appear to be outnumbered in their dissatisfaction, as justices Ricky Arnold, Tom Calhoon, Austin King, Tracy Rider and Darin “Spud” Buscher are all sponsoring the ordinance.

Employee bonuses
A part-time employee of the treasurer’s office is set to speak to justices about their recent decision to award a one-time bonus to full-time county employees.

In an email to the county clerk’s office, Gloria Hart wrote that it was “wrong and unfair of them to do what they did.” Hart noted she has twice emailed every JP regarding her concerns but only heard back from three of them. She did not list which justices responded to her email.

The Clark County Quorum Court’s first meeting of the year will be held Jan. 10 at 5:30 p.m. in the Court Complex Building, 419 Clay St., Arkadelphia. The meeting is open to the public.

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