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Dirks upset with how agreement was approved

Staff writer

Hillsboro City Council member Shelby Dirks wasn’t upset about the terms of an agreement to employ an economic development director, but he was upset with how the agreement was approved Aug. 17 in his absence.

“I think having a director is important for the city,” he said.

But he thought whether the city can afford to pay an economic development director was a question for voters to decide. It is especially important with the current state of the economy, he said.

On Sept. 7, Dirks criticized the council’s Aug. 17 decision to approve an agreement with Hillsboro Ventures Inc. and Hillsboro Development Corporation to fund an economic development director position. The city previously provided funding, but the new agreement increased the city’s portion of the funding.

Dirks was especially critical of City Administrator Larry Paine for putting the agreement on the agenda when he knew Dirks would be absent.

On Thursday, he said he thought the city still had room to negotiate better terms and the city hadn’t exhausted efforts to find other financing methods.

“It didn’t need to be approved then,” Dirks said. “I don’t know why it was rushed through.”

He clarified that he didn’t think electricity prices were increased to pay for the position, but he questioned why monthly meter fees were raised if the city electric fund had enough money to support the director’s position. Part of the city’s share of the director’s salary is set to be transferred from the electric fund.

He also said the money for the agreement could have been used to provide a cost-of-living adjustment to city employees’ salaries. City employees haven’t received raises in two years.

Dirks said he didn’t know whether the agreement could still be put to a citywide vote, but he would like to.

“I would like to see that happen, absolutely,” he said.

The deadline to put the issue on a November ballot has passed. About eight weeks notice is needed to prepare a ballot issue for an election, Marion County Clerk Carol Maggard said.

Dirks said he would still like to see the issue put to an election in April.

Paine declined to comment.

Last modified Sept. 15, 2010

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