Robert Barron Citizen
Directors in the Cowichan Valley Regional District are still undecided on how to move forward with its troubled Economic Development Function.
After a lengthy discussion at Wednesday’s board meeting, the board decided to hold a workshop to try to determine the best future course for the EDF.
The issue was raised after the regional services committee recommended in a report a change in the EDF’s funding formula that would see a new economic development manager hired to head the function.
Its previous manager, Geoff Millar, retired in 2014.
Klaus Kuhn, the CVRD’s director for Youbou/Meade Creek, said he found the report “troublesome.”
“We’ve had studies done, at a cost of about $30,000, on this issue and it was decided that management of the EDF shouldn’t be done in house,” Kuhn said.
“If we hire a manager at a cost of about $120,000 per year and it doesn’t work out, what then? All we need is a coordinator and that would give us much more flexibility.”
Jerry Berry, of Jerry Berry Consultants Inc., tabled a report on the governance of the EDF last year in which he stated that there has been a “fundamental failure to follow board strategic direction” in the troubled organization.
The EDF has a budget of more than $800,000 per year, most of which comes from property taxes. The CVRD uses a blended model for the EDF, combining in-house work by staff with several arms-length volunteer bodies.
But Berry said in his report that there have been failures to clarify roles and responsibilities in the organization, communicate effectively and pursue previously recommended corrective action.
Aaron Stone, the director from Ladysmith, agreed at Wednesday’s meeting that the hiring of a new manager for the EDF would not “line up” with the vision the board has developed for the organization.
“I thought it was agreed that we would hire a coordinator,” Stone said.
But Kate Marsh, a director from North Cowichan, said “someone with expertise” is needed to oversee the EDF.
“If we’re using taxpayers’ money, we need to do it well and we need experts to do that,” Marsh said.
“We have a fantastic area here and we need to attract the kind of person [to head the EDF] to capitalize on it and make things happen.”
Bob Day, the director from Lake Cowichan, agreed.
“We need a manager,” he said.
“I don’t want us to have to sit at this table and micromanage [the EDF.].”