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County Council, December 18

Economic Development Department to double in size
St. Andrews PSD looks to move maintenance facility to Bees Ferry
Warwick Jones

It was the last meeting for 2014 and the agenda was long but light. The most interesting item was a presentation by Mr. Steve Dykes, head of the Economic Development Department. He wanted an increase in the department’s budget and a doubling of its staffing.

It was no surprise to us that there was no opposition on Council. The economic growth on the Tri County area in recent years has been impressive. How much of this has resulted from the incentives and encouragement of the state, the county and private entities, can be debated. But nobody doubts that the County’s role has been significant.

In the overall context of the County, Mr. Dykes request was modest – for 5 full time personnel at an annual cost $471,000. The department’s annual budget would rise from $1.42 million to $1.89 million. The present staff complement is 5, so effectively the size of the department would double. Mr. Dykes said that meeting the demands on the department was stretching staff. A project manager, research manager and recruitment specialist needed to be hired as well as a research specialist.

It was possibly the financing rather than Mr. Dyke’s eloquence that gave his request such an easy passage through Council. The extra funds would come from the Multi-County Industrial Park. This park houses a number of industrial operations and is projected to generate $37 million in 2016 in recurring tax revenues. Some years ago, Council agreed to set aside 5% and then 7.5% of these revenues for the Economic Development Department. They would not pass through the General Fund. At the 7.5% rate, the projected tax revenue accruing to the County in 2016 would yield over $2.7 million for the Economic Development Department, well covering its projected $1.9 million costs.

Council member Schweers was surprised at the financing arrangement, and why the ratio went from 5% to 7.5%. With a conspicuous surplus in the funding of the Economic Development Department, and the forecast by Mr. Dykes that revenues of the Multi County Industrial Park will grow at 15% a year, the surplus could become more conspicuous beyond 2016. May be Council will look to cutting the ratio back to the 5% level.

The only other item of interest was a presentation by the St. Andrews Public Service District. It was a “testing the waters” presentation. The District would like to sell the site on Savage Road where it conducts the maintenance of its heavy vehicles. In turn, it would like to lease/buy sufficient property from the County on its Bees Ferry landfill site to erect a 10,000 sq. ft. facility plus some offices. It would undertake all it maintenance at this site but would also undertake emergency maintenance for County vehicles.

From the ensuing discussion, it seems that there is a willing buyer for the District’s site on Savage Road. The representative of the District said that there would be no surplus from the sale after paying for the new construction. It also seemed there would be some benefit to the County in having a maintenance facility by the landfill.

We suspect staff will be doing more work before a decision is reached.

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