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City to pay $137,000 to economic board

Special correspondent

After more than an hour of discussion about getting a seat at the table, Peabody City Council voted 4-1 Monday to turn over the majority of its economic development budget to a proposed new countywide effort.

Chris Hernandez, representing Marion County Economic Development Corporation, asked Peabody for a five-year commitment of $25,000 annually, beginning with the 2018 budget.

An interim allocation of $12,000 to support MCEDC through the end of the year will come out of $40,000 already included in the city’s 2017 budget for economic development. Part of that money had been earmarked to pay for a part-time director of Peabody’s Main Street program.

Hernandez said he thought whatever director the countywide council eventually hired could also serve as director of Peabody Main Street.

The remainder of the money budgeted by the city could still be used for Main Street projects such as highway signs, brochures, or special events.

Councilman Tom Spencer moved to support the county effort with a $25,000 annual commitment and the director serving as Peabody Main Street director. The motion failed for lack of a second.

Councilman Rick Reynolds asked about adding additional interim funding for 2017. Spencer amended his motion to provide an additional $12,000 for interim funding. That motion passed 4-1 with councilwoman Janice Woodruff voting against it.

“I think we really need this, guys — we really, really do,” Mayor Larry Larsen said.

Spencer added: “I agree. We need to just go with it.”

But Woodruff said: “I am opposed to it. I understand the concept, and it would be wonderful if we knew it would work, but I just don’t see that kind of agreement between our communities. To me, it looks like the same old game. I would rather we rely on ourselves.”

The county commission has agreed to provide $165,000 annually to the economic development council.

Other communities in the county were invited to buy in with five-year commitments of their own. The first three communities making such a commitment would be guaranteed voting rights and a say in determining how and where prospective businesses would be recruited.

Marion already has signed up with a five-year commitment of $44,500 annually, plus $9,000 to $14,000 in interim funding for 2017.

Hillsboro recently hired its own economic development director and has not been approached by the group for funding.

Salvage operation

In other business, the council did not agree to a request from neighbor Dan Martel that a storage area maintained by Joe Brundage at 6th and Peabody Sts. be declared a salvage yard and therefore subject to regulation.

Reynolds told Martel that Brundage was not operating a salvage yard because he was not selling salvage, merely storing items.

“He has done a better than average job of fencing it in and hiding it from the public,” Reynolds said.

He and Spencer acknowledged that property values were down but said they were down all over Peabody and the county.

“I bought my house at 47 percent of the appraised value,” Reynolds said. “There isn’t a salvage pile anywhere near me.”

Martel was not convinced.

“Well, we are going to have to live with Joe,” Martel said. “He has his fence now, and we’re stuck with him because the city won’t create an ordinance to prevent this.”

The council also:

  • Approved paying half of the $130 registration fee for township librarian Rodger Charles to attend a two-day Kansas Broadband Conference in Wichita next month. The library board will cover his meals and mileage. Vintage Bank will pay for the rest of the registration.
  • Heard from Linda Wetta, who urged the council to look at the arrival of Dollar General at the east edge of Peabody as a chance to capture US-50 traffic. Wetta suggested a sign visible to people leaving the Dollar General parking lot that would direct people to downtown businesses and attractions.
  • Approved Preston Hodges’s request to use Peabody City Park for the community’s annual July 4 celebration.

“On behalf of Peabody City Council,” Larsen said, “I want you to know we appreciate all that you do to put us on the map.”

Last modified June 14, 2017

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