POLK COUNTY — The Polk County Commissioners have changed how the county distributes its share of video lottery proceeds for economic development.
That is within the board’s right.
The only problem is the county had told the long-term recipients, the cities of Dallas, Independence and Monmouth, to expect an estimated amount for this fiscal year, ending June 30.
As was practice, the cities budgeted the money and expected it when the county received its distribution.
They didn’t, and weren’t officially told until March or April they should not expect the money.
Dallas already began spending its share on its “Take a Closer Look” marketing campaign.
The amounts going to the cities aren’t huge — less than $20,000 for each city — but the lack of communication has left the cities “perplexed” as one city official described it.
County Administrator Greg Hansen said he sent a letter to Monmouth in October, informing City Manager Scott McClure that the county was considering changes in economic development money distribution and other programs.
Commissioner Craig Pope said the board decided to create a grant program that was open to private business and government bodies.
He said that process would provide more information beforehand about how the money would be used and reporting on how the money helped the business or city after the grant is received.
Hansen said making that change had been a long-term goal of the board.
“Not that the cities were doing anything wrong with the money, the board just wanted a better feel for where the monies were going,” Hansen said.
Hansen took responsibility for the poor communication with the cities, saying he should have informed them earlier that the change was coming.
McClure said the situation comes with concerns that amount to more than money.
“The money is already allocated in the budget to go to the cities this year and they decided not (to send it),” he said. “We’re a bit perplexed.”
Monmouth’s distribution, $11,000 last year, was used to help pay for Economic Development Director Mark Fancey.
“It’s not big money or anything; it was definitely helpful,” McClure said.
Dallas was slated to receive $17,000, part of which was already spent by the time the city found out it wasn’t coming.
“We end up having to try to take those expenditures and having to find other funding sources in an already tight budget,” Foggin said. “If we were anticipating this early on, we could have planned for it.”
Foggin said he took his concerns to Pope and was told to send an invoice for the amount. He did that and was asked to fill out the grant application, which he did, saying he didn’t mind going through the extra step.
“In the scheme of things it’s not a lot of money,” Foggin said.