County letting off pressure on GGHI

  • Mon Apr 10th, 2017 10:00pm
  • News

Concerned that two county commissioners hadn’t fully vetted a recently approved funding agreement with Greater Grays Harbor Inc., the full three-person commission plans to step back and further discuss the issue. The approved $88,000 allocation, however, still seems to be on track.

The Grays Harbor County commissioners on April 3 approved an agreement to partially fund the salary of Greater Grays Harbor Inc. CEO Dru Garson. Greater Grays Harbor serves as an economic development council and a sort of regional chamber of commerce. The $88,000 in county funding would come mostly from the distressed area capital fund, also known as the (.09) fund for its share of the sales tax. Economically “distressed” counties can charge the tax and use it for economic development. The commissioners approved a $74,500 budget transfer from that fund on Monday. An additional $13,500 was budgeted from the general fund.

All totalled, that’s more than 14 times the county’s 2016 contribution of $6,000.

That agreement also included “deliverables” added by Commissioner Wes Cormier. Those deliverables, which Greater Grays Harbor was required to produce, include a minimum number of specific activities the agency must account for, including engagements with government agencies, civic organizations and “cold calls” to prospective businesses that might locate in the county.

A week later, during Monday’s meeting, Commissioner Vickie Raines asked that the commissioners have an opportunity to revisit the deliverables in a discussion. Raines said changes were made that she wasn’t aware of when she voted to approve the agreement.

“I don’t believe that when we disucssed it initially and when we put it back on the agenda that at the time when we originally discussed it the deliverables were attached in the manner that they were,” Raines said. Clerk to the board Jenna Amsbury said the deliverables were sent the commissioners via email. “I assumed it was the same document that we went back with. And I knew that Wes (Cormier) had had conversations with Dru (Garson) over what your expectations were.”

Commissioner Randy Ross agreed that the deliverables should be discussed, noting that he thought Cormier had discussed the deliverables with Garson, but that wasn’t the case.

“I’d like to bring it back to the table,” Ross said.

Raines noted her specific disagreement with the cold call deliverables.

“When I very first started (in her insurance career) I had to cold call, and I don’t think it’s an effective way to do things,” Raines said.

Cormier pointed out that the agreement only asks for one cold call per week, and he said there is not a consensus regarding the effectiveness of cold calling.

“I just read a Forbes magazine article about it, and they think it’s a decent way to enhance your network and keep in contact with people,” Cormier said.

As the conversation continued, Cormier’s frustration became more evident.

“I mean we could hire somebody at the county for $88,000,” Cormier was saying, but his rebuttal was cut short by Raines who attempted to quell his evident frustrations.

“Wes — I just want to talk about it. I’m not upset. I just want to talk about it,” Raines interrupted.

Cormier noted that his frustrations were elevated due to a recent letter to the editor of The Daily World penned by Aberdeen Mayor Erik Larson, which Cormier characterized as “personal.”

In his piece in The Daily World, Larson said Cormier is upset that Greater Grays Harbor is stressing a more regional approach to tourism promotion and sees it as counter to the tourism promotion Cormier has supported through another group, Grays Harbor Tourism. The requirements attached to the county’s Greater Grays Harbor funding amounted to punishment, Larson said.

Raines reiterated that she was wanting to have a conversation with no specific action in mind.

“I’m not saying to delete, change or modify it. I’m just saying let’s have a conversation,” Raines said.

No action was taken, and the commissioners plan to add the discussion to a future workshop. No action can be taken during the workshops, so any proposed action must happen during a meeting.