Even as they voted to increase their annual contribution to local economic development efforts, the Putnam County Commissioners have opted not to contribute to the regional economic development district to which it belongs.
In at $1.057 million plan, the biggest disagreement between commissioners ultimately came down to less than $20,000.
While Commissioner Don Walton proposed that West Central Indiana Economic Development District receive $16,572 — the district’s request amount — fellow commissioners Rick Woodall and Dave Berry proposed giving no money to West Central.
Walton, the commissioners’ liaison to West Central, briefly made the case that West Central does good things for its entire six-county region, which includes Vigo, Sullivan, Clay, Parke, Vermillion and Putnam counties, his colleagues did not agree.
“We don’t feel like we’re getting the bang for our buck,” Berry said.
Problems with West Central began to come to a head early last summer when the commissioners discovered that West Central’s annual bill was $15,105, up from the $10,700 the commissioners had agreed to pay from the 2018 EDIT plan.
The commissioners ultimately voted not to pay the extra money.
WCIEDD officials later attended several commissioners meetings as a way to reach out to the Putnam County officials. During these trips, they explained a bit about what they saw West Central doing for Putnam County, including the explanation that the added payment in 2018 was for traffic counts that could assist the county as it applies for state grants for roads.
Ultimately, it may have been too little, too late.
“I’ve been here four years and this is the first time someone has come to explain what West Central does,” Woodall said during that first meeting in July.
Both Greencastle/Putnam County Economic Development Center Director Kristin Clary and her predecessor, Greencastle Mayor Bill Dory, were in the crowd on Monday morning. Neither of the economic development professionals voiced any concern over what the commissioners were about to do.
“I feel like the commissioners did their due diligence and their research and made an informed, intelligent decision,” Clary told the Banner Graphic. “I think Dave as been a great leader on that board and Rick is doing a great job. I think they’ve probably put in the time to do the research.”
Clary also noted during the meeting that Putnam County remains a part of the district regardless of whether it pays the money or not.
“They (West Central) still have to cover us, whether we pay our dues or not,” Clary said.
Although he had earlier voiced his support for West Central, Walton ultimately joined the unanimous vote in approving the EDIT plan.
One other notable change was an increase to the Development Center from $45,000 in 2018 to $50,000 in 2019. The city made an identical increase in approving its own EDIT plan last month.
“We were very grateful that they gave us a bit of additional funding to match what the city did,” Clary said. “I also applaud them for raising the Rural Transit budget because we have been doing some work with Rural Transit and that service is essential in our community.”
The county doubled its contribution to Rural Transit from $5,000 to $10,000.
Another small increase came in the contribution to People Pathways, which increased from $9,000 to $11,000.