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Board members agree to dissolve economic authority

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Chairman Mike Weaver: It's not a new idea

By Gina Clear

In a Radcliff City Council budget work session, a proposal to eliminate $30,000 in funding to the North Hardin Economic Development Authority was presented and it was no surprise to the board. In fact, board members said it was what they would recommend.

In a special meeting Thursday, the board voted unanimously to dissolve the authority and turn its assets, including Millpond Business Center on Ky. 313 in Radcliff, over to the city. As part of the vote, the board expressed a desire to remain in tact as an advisory council for economic development to the mayor.

Board member Rik Hawkins said funding for the authority comes solely from the city and county government by request of the board. This year, no request was made from either entity, he said.

The county has budgeted $20,000 for this fiscal year, Judge-Executive Harry Berry said, but given the circumstances would not approve the payment.

“We didn’t request money because we thought this was the direction we’re going,” Hawkins said about dissolving the authority.

Radcliff Mayor J.J. Duvall said he has been privy to the board’s discussions, which was part of the reason he recommended withdrawing funding.

“Currently, the board will be dissolved as a fiscal board at the end of the fiscal year,” he said.

Duvall said many legal issues need to be ironed out before the city assumes control of the property, including the transfer of the deed that still has about $100,000 of debt remaining, the transfer of the authority’s money to the city and the transfer of any contracts with lease holders who farm the land.

“I don’t know how it’s going to play out,” he said. “The process to finalize it all could take a while.”

He also said the council will have to decide whether to continue the debt service on the property or to use money from the general fund to complete the purchase for the city to own it outright. He said that would cost about $60,000 once the authority’s checking account balance is applied.

The board also had a closed session to discuss a potential buyer for a portion of the property.

According to Hawkins and authority chairman Mike Weaver, a strategic plan was discussed at an October meeting, but no action was taken because the group did not have a quorum.

During the meeting Thursday, Weaver, who is a candidate for Radcliff mayor, told the rest of the board three options were presented, one of which would be to dissolve the authority and to transfer the deed to the Millpond Business Center back to the city.

“It is not a new idea,” Weaver said in the meeting about the council’s decision not to fund the authority.

According to Weaver, the board formed in June 1998 and until April 2012 “operated at an arm’s length from the mayor and city council.”

During that time, the land for Millpond was acquired for a little less than $2 million.

The property was purchased by the city and ground was broken in 2002, but the center has remained largely dormant.

City Council found itself split over Millpond’s future in 2010 when the authority, under the direction of then-Executive Director Brad Richardson, asked the city to invest $800,000 into leveling to grade 40 acres of the terrain at the business center. Doing so would help attract a high-dollar company that has eluded the city for years, Richardson said at the time.

The city ultimately approved $475,000 on a 4-3 vote to partially grade the site, but the authority withdrew its request and did not accept the funding.

Richardson resigned from the position in September 2011 and the authority chose to dissolve the position to save the more than $75,000 salary and operate under a volunteer board and one contract employee to maintain a “storefront presence.”

The board initiated an effort to level the property with city resources, sell timber and since has leased unused property for agricultural use.

It has paid down a $150,000 debt to around $100,000 and has more than $38,000 in its checking account, Weaver said.

With its money in the bank and the city saving $30,000 by cutting funding to the authority, Weaver and Hawkins believe the city is getting a good deal on the property.

“I think it’s the best way to go,” Hawkins said, adding when Ky. 313 is continued to connect with Interstate 64 in Indiana, that Millpond will be even more valuable. “Millpond will become a very valuable piece of property at that point.”

The city council will hear a first reading of the budget at its work session 4 p.m. Monday.

Gina Clear can be reached at 270-505-1746 or gclear@thenewsenterprise.com.