Wrong to see talent pool wasted, board member says
TRURO – Economic development opportunities are being lost and human expertise is being wasted because of a lack of municipal direction for the Colchester Regional Development Agency (CoRDA), a board member says.
“What do you want the board of CoRDA to do?” past chairman Laurie Jennings asked Colchester County Council, during a presentation at last week’s meeting. “You folks need to tell this organization what you want.”
CoRDA has been left in a somewhat rudderless state in recent months ever since the previous NDP government opted to discontinue support for RDAs and the county decided to cut off municipal funding in order to hire its own economic development officer.
Colchester County had been providing CoRDA with more than $300,000 per year in core funding and it initially set aside $313,186 in funding for this year. But after providing a first-quarter allotment of $78,000, council has since decided not to provide any further financial assistance.
The agency also received municipal funding to a lesser degree from the towns of Stewiacke and Truro since being established about 21 years ago. The Town of Truro, however, also cut its funding for this year to $60,000, from approximately $130,000 in previous years.
It was expected that CoRDA would continue to function until March 31, in part, to give the organization a chance to properly wind down its operations. And Jennings said the board and staff had hoped that CoRDA would transition into some other functioning body instead of being simply disbanded. Both the board and staff are ready, willing and able to continue on with economic development initiatives, he said, but a lack of direction from the county has made it difficult to proceed.
“There’s a huge void in this community,” Jennings said, of a lack of current economic development activity taking place.
If the county is not willing to provide direction, he said, the board and staff should be relieved of their duties prior to March 31. If that were to happen, however, staff contracts should still be honoured until the end of March, he said.
But Jennings added that would be “the worst decision we could make,” because of the economic development talent pool that would be lost.
Another difficulty with that proposal is that the agency still has other commitments in place – such as office rent – that must be taken care.
Although CoRDA has prepared a work plan for council to consider during the transition period, Coun. Mike Cooper told Jennings he is unsure of what is actually being accomplished by the agency.
“My problem Laurie, is I look a this, this is a paradigm of some sort that has vague outcomes,” he said, of the work plan.
Cooper said he had requested a clearer outline of the agency’s outcomes but that has not been forthcoming.
“I still have just a vague notion of what they do …,” he said. “I would have thought that an organization that was fighting for its life would do that.”
Coun. Tom Taggart agreed with Jennings that communications had ceased between the municipality and CoRDA but that is because council had unanimously agreed to shut the agency down.
And Mayor Bob Taylor told the Truro Daily News following the meeting that council’s direction to the agency has been clear.
“This is their choice,” he said, for CoRDA to continue operating without municipal support.
“We’ve made motions to wrap up CoRDA and they’ve refused to wrap up,” Taylor said. “We’ve had meetings with them about wrapping up and for them to voluntarily resign and so on.
“I guess where we are, I expect that the directors should be forwarding information on, what files they’re working on and that sort of thing. I’m not hearing much.”
But given that CoRDA was formed through a partnership consisting also of the towns of Truro and Stewiacke, Jennings said, the board has also not received any clear-cut directive from those municipalities on how they wish it to proceed.
And it would be wrong, he suggested to not work with the CoRDA staff to glean as much information from them as possible before they are sent home.
“They’ve done a lot of good work for a lot of people,” Jennings said.