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End of the line for embattled corporation

Staff writer

The doors of an embattled countywide economic development corporation funded by the county and cities are officially locked and the shutters are closed.

Marion County Community Economic Development Corp. board members, left with one remaining board member as of the end of this month, voted Tuesday to dissolve the corporation effective Dec. 31, and disburse remaining money.

Cities will get a full refund and the county will get a partial refund.

Board members Jared Jost, Hannah Bourbon, and chairman Clint Seibel all resigned during the November meeting. Merlyn Entz and Darin Neufeld both resigned Tuesday. That leaves Lloyd Meier the only board member willing to remain after Jan. 1.

The corporation, officially launched in April 2016, has seen continuing financial uncertainty and been criticized for not making progress. Marion, Hillsboro, and Peabody each provided funding, with Hillsboro providing the most, but Marion and Peabody withdrew after an initial payment.

Discussion was often contentious Tuesday as members wrangled over what to do with $192,000 still in the bank account.

Bills from Emprise Bank, the corporation’s Internet provider, Kansas Publishing Ventures, and the Kansas Department of Revenue were presented. Even that discussion became divisive.

KDOR sent a demand for $1,800 as a penalty for the corporation not filing a 2017 tax return. The demand was removed from the list of bills to pay when Bourbon said she would contact the tax department to see if she could get them to waive payment because the current board of directors had not been aware a tax return was needed.

When Emprise Bank offered to provide office space for the corporation, the corporation agreed to pay for security measures needed to make the downstairs office available after bank hours. The invoice was for $4,153.

“We have not gotten this invoice until this month,” Seibel said. “We agreed to make the payment.”

Meier objected to paying Emprise’s bill because it arrived months after the corporation started using the office space.

“I do not approve the bill,” Meier said. “I just question why we just got the bill.”

Meier’s was the lone vote against paying the bills. Neufeld, Jost, Seibel, Bourbon, and Entz voted to pay.

Seibel said the board needs a minimum of four directors to have a chairman, treasurer, secretary, and vice chairman.

“It seems to me we don’t have the board,” Seibel said.

Neufeld moved to dissolve the corporation. The measure passed unanimously before members took up the matter of what to do with remaining assets.

Meier moved to put the office computer, phone, printer, and any other tangible assets up for auction. Others had different ideas, such as giving the equipment to the county. Hillsboro economic development director Anthony Roy recommended that corporation data be preserved in case it is needed later, and suggested those records go to the county.

Roy said the city of Hillsboro is requesting its $22,249.98 back and that money be refunded to the county.

“We’re not going to get into a fistfight over this, but this was a county-led effort and the cities were asked to join in,” Roy said. “We request all of our money.”

Marion gave $7,500 to the corporation and Peabody gave $7,000.

Seibel said they could return the entire amount to the cities, use a formula to divide the money among the citites and county, or give all remaining money to the county.

Entz favored giving all of the money to the county, but Meier contended the money should be distributed equally “and if we give it back to the county, that puts the monkey on the county.”

“The county is who was in the way of the group fulfilling its mission,” Seibel said. “We’re not moving forward because we’re running into roadblocks with the county.”

Neufeld moved to refund money paid by cities and pay whatever remained to the county.

Even that resulted in a split vote, with Jost, Bourbon, Neufeld, and Seibel in favor and Meier and Entz opposed.

After a 15-minute executive session to discuss personnel, the board voted to end employment of administrative assistant Katherine Young effective Jan. 1 after she settles any remaining business.

Former board treasurer Mike Beneke announced walked over to Young and announced he was making a “private donation” of $100 to Young “for all her good work.”

Last modified Dec. 12, 2018

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