Columbus approves $150k in economic development funds

The city of Columbus is moving ahead with a contract to dramatically increase the amount of money it gives each year to the Columbus Economic Development Board.

Mayor Jim Lienhoop has proposed increasing the annual funding from $14,000 a year, to $150,000 for each of the next three years. The idea will be for the board to step up its business recruitment efforts, specifically aiming for ways to diversify the local economy.

The city’s Board of Public Works and Safety approved the contract with the economic development body this morning.

Several residents protested the decision, questioning why there were no measurable goals listed and whether it was legal for the city to give lump sum payments, rather than requiring detailed invoices for individual spending items from the economic development board. For example, one of the attendees said that  a city could not buy pieces of wood without getting a receipt for exactly how many pieces of wood were being purchased.

The mayor and City Attorney Allen Whitted said that the money was being given as a grant to the not-for-profit board.

Brenda Sullivan, a member of the board of works and the city’s former clerk-treasurer, said she was in office when the county enacted the Economic Development Income Tax and she felt it was perfectly appropriate to use it for this purpose.