TIFA Meeting Discusses Stream, New Economic Development Group
By Ken DeLaat
The TIFA Board met Friday morning in the wake of the conflicts that arose from comments shared at Newaygo’s City Council meeting on Monday.
Rhonda Wert-Carr Director of Operations for The Stream reported on recent projects at the facility and introduced Theresa Cooper of Sui Generis, the downtown home furnishings store that is in the process of moving...
...into the first floor of the building. Ms. Cooper addressed the TIFA group and expressed her appreciation for the benefits The Stream has provided in the development of her business.
Committee Chair Ron Armstrong spoke to the formation of a new economic development group that will take over for the group known as Stream/Ops. The new group, called NEDO (Newaygo Economic Development Organization), will consist of 11 members and will begin this January when the Stream/Ops group will be disbanded. City Council Member Mike Hikade had called for the Stream/Ops group to be disbanded Monday night as part of a 5 point recommendation he delivered at Monday’s meeting.
The group will be made up of the four current Stream/Ops members and seven others who will be chosen to take part. Mr. Armstrong, Scott Faulkner, Mayor Ed Fedell, and Newaygo County Commissioner Larry Lethorn presently make up the Stream/Ops group.
Mr. Armstrong indicated former Grand Rapids Mayor and current Newaygo County resident George Heartwell and State Representative Jon Bumstead have been asked to be part of that board.
Croton Township Supervisor Morgan Heinzman expressed the importance of the townships that neighbor the city being included both in board representation and communications regarding the direction of economic efforts. He spoke to the effect growth in the city has on the adjoining townships and the lack of inclusion when it comes to planning.
“We’ve never been approached about economic development,” said Mr. Heinzman. “I would hope you realize that even though we don’t all always get along to not have the townships represented on the board is just foolish.”
“Don’t forget your neighbors.”
Mr. Armstrong gave assurance that interested supervisors or board members from the townships would be most welcome to serve on the NEDO board.
“We would love to see them at the table, “ he stated.
Later in the meeting Mr. Heinzman expressed concern over the minutes of a City Council meeting that appeared in a local newspaper including a statement implying the TIFA board could not make payments for water department improvements because of The Stream. He challenged the remark indicating it was made by Newaygo City Manager Jon Schneider stating it was misleading and that the TIFA Board was not obligated to make such payments.
“The Stream has been valuable in terms of developing downtown. We knew it was going to be a struggle for awhile but that is changing and for these boards to be questioning this…it’s the wrong time.”
“It was not my intent to be misleading,” said Mr. Schneider. “I agree that could have been phrased better and I apologize.”
“If the City Council had come to us earlier this would have been handled but we weren’t asked,” directed Mr. Armstrong to the City Manager.
“Again, I am sorry,” replied Mr. Schneider.
Mr. Heinzman brought up the need for more effective communication and questioned if this new board would be more accountable and also make minutes of their meetings available.
Mr. Armstrong spoke of how NEDO would operate as independent from TIFA but assured that reports on the meetings would be made available in a timely manner to both TIFA Board members and City Council.
“I assumed Jon and Ed were informing City council members about the TIFA meetings but it was not happening,” he stated.
Mr. Fedell spoke to some issues that arose after Mr. Schneider had requested the incentive bonuses received by Stream staff be expanded to include other city employees a request that was denied. He referenced this situation as causing conflict among other employees and creating a rift between him and the City Manager.
Mr. Schneider stated that he felt the city should operate like a team with credit going to all.
“You haven’t run a business,” said Mr. Armstrong in response to Mr. Schneider’s statement. “There are different compensations for different positions. You don’t pay sales people the same way as office or manufacturing because the pay values are different.”
It was also mentioned that the City Council voted at their Monday meeting to end bonuses for Stream employees.
During public comment Newaygo resident Mike King expressed his appreciation to the board for discussing these issues in a public meeting.
“Thank you talking about it and for keeping all this out in the open,” he stated.
The next TIFA meeting will Friday, January 13th, 2017 at 7am. TIFA meetings are held at the Newaygo City Council meeting room.