Economic effort gets support of council
PRESCOTT – Regional economic development vs. beefed up code enforcement: That was the debate that emerged this week during consideration of a City of Prescott contribution to the Greater Prescott Regional Economic Partnership (GPREP).
Ultimately – subscribing to the theory that attracting new industry to the region would “raise the tide” for the entire area – the Prescott City Council approved the contract, including the $40,000 city contribution.
The decision did not come without plenty of dissension, however, as well as some caveats. While the contract was approved by a 5-2 vote, several council members voiced support for withholding the $40,000 contribution until the city can find a source for the money other than the general fund.
Budget and Finance Director Mark Woodfill said on Wednesday, Oct. 12, that city officials are looking into other options for the GPREP contribution and would likely make a report to the council at a future meeting.
Meanwhile, the dissenting council members also contended that the $40,000 city contribution could be better used to hire another city code-enforcement officer, police officer, or firefighter.
“It’s a matter of priorities,” said Councilman Jim Lamerson, who along with Councilman Greg Lazzell, voted against the motion. “$40,000 would go a long way in paying for a code enforcement officer.”
Lazzell brought up a similar concern, noting that the city has just one code enforcement officer, and is currently in the process of adding a host of new regulations for sober living homes and vacation rentals. “I can’t support $40,000 going to GPREP this year,” he said.
But others maintained that encouraging more business and industry in the Prescott area would help the entire region, and that Prescott could not afford to be absent from the discussions.
“It is extremely important for Prescott to be at the table,” Councilwoman Billie Orr said. “Prosperity does not end at city limits.”
And Councilman Steve Sischka warned against being “penny-wise and pound-foolish” by leaving the GPREP effort.
The council also heard from area business owners, as well as Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Chancellor Frank Ayres, who urged the city to continue its support for GPREP.
Speaking in favor of the contribution, Mike Fann of Fann Contracting, for instance, noted, “GPREP doesn’t directly help Fann Contracting, but it raises the tide for the community.”
Still, others in the audience brought up concerns about putting $40,000 toward the effort, when the city needs more resources toward code enforcement.
Glenn Martin, the chairman of the Prescott Mayor’s Ad Hoc Committee on Structured Sober Living Homes, suggested that the city reconsider its GPREP contribution and put the money instead toward beefing up enforcement.
This week’s debate was the latest in a series of discussions about whether the city was getting its money’s worth out of its annual GPREP contribution. Although the city’s current 2017 budget includes the $40,000 contribution, similar concerns arose during the recent budget-approval process, with several council members voicing opposition.
In response to council members’ requests for more information on accomplishments, Dane Beck of GPREP led off Tuesday’s discussion with a report on the organization’s actions to date. He pointed out that GPREP had launched a number of efforts aimed at generating interest in locating in Prescott.
“The goal is to market the region to bring base jobs to the region,” Beck told the council, adding that past efforts have brought in a number of businesses, totaling more than 55 new jobs. “You have received return on your investment,” he added.
Councilman Steve Blair suggested the city should find “a sustainable source for funding” the annual GPREP contribution, and several others appeared to agree.
The council also asked for more city involvement in the hiring process for replacement of outgoing GPREP Executive Director Richard Heath.
Along with Prescott, GPREP gets financial participation from Prescott Valley, Chino Valley, Dewey-Humboldt, and Yavapai County, along with more than 20 businesses, according to a city memo.