Shifting Peabody’s $25,000 commitment from Peabody Main Street Association to the county’s new economic development corporation could have a chilling effect on the association’s future, according to comments made at Monday’s city council meeting.
Morgan and Shane Marler were present by council request to provide Main Street’s perspective on Marion County Economic Development Corporation’s pitch to the city for $25,000 originally intended to pay for a new director for the reconstituted Main Street program.
Morgan Marler’s opening comment pulled no punches.
“If you use the allocated economic development budget for 2017 to join that economic development group, we won’t have the funding to be able to hire our own director for the program,” she said. “That would be the end of the program for Peabody.”
At a prior council meeting, MCEDC board member Russell Groves said their economic development director could be the designated director for Main Street. Shane Marler expressed concern that the group doesn’t fully understand what Main Street does.
“I don’t think, based on their conversation, that they actually realize what they’re getting into if they wanted to take that over,” he said. “There’s more to it than just saying, ‘Hey, we’re Peabody Main Street.’”
Marler, a former Main Street director, described obligations the association has for engagement with state and national Main Street organizations, including required participation in training events and reporting. He also questioned MCEDC’s commitment to Main Street’s activities.
“What I don’t know if they have an interest in is the boots on the ground, the small projects we’ve done in the past,” he said. “The planters downtown, the benches downtown; are they going to come do Trunk-or-Treat for Halloween this year?”
Morgan Marler said she received an email from Groves that said MCEDC would be interested in managing Main Street funds and Incentives Without Walls loans and serving the program in an advisory capacity.
“But they were not interested in doing any local work, any on the ground work,” she said. “That would still have to be done here locally.”
“So basically they want the money, but they don’t really want to have anything else to do with it,” Shane Marler said.
He suggested it would be in the city’s best interests to “wait and see” what other cities do before committing Peabody’s funds to MCEDC.
Council members expressed concern that they haven’t received a promised letter from Groves confirming that MCEDC’s director would fulfill state requirements for having a Main Street director.
“He said he would have that in writing and at our meeting because he wants a commitment at our next meeting,” council member Janice Woodruff said. “But as far as I’m concerned, he’s not going to get it because he hasn’t fulfilled his obligations so far. The way I look at it, he didn’t present us with the knowledge we need at this meeting, so that’s going to put him down the line.”
In other business:
- A $3,400 USDA grant proposal to defray costs of buying 800Mhz radios for the police department was approved. The appropriation could be finalized by the end of next week. Chief Bruce Burke reported that the radios have been ordered.
- Former city clerk Stephanie Ax will provide additional training and consultation for new clerk Barb Seeney. An agreement that would pay Ax $20 an hour for a maximum of 40 hours through May was approved on a 2-1 vote, with council president Steve Rose opposed.
- Rylie McDowell was hired as pool manager. She will be paid $5,500 for the summer.
- Noting significant progress had been made, council gave an extension until May 30 for Joe Brundage to complete cleanup and fence construction for his salvage operation at 703 Chestnut St.