A partnership promoting economic development in Livingston County will continue, though not with the level of funding it had been supported with before.

Discussions have been ongoing regarding the county’s contract with the Economic Development Council of Livingston County (EDC), which is due to expire next month. The county has partnered with the EDC for five years, helping fund the EDC’s contract with Ann Arbor SPARK to provide business recruitment and retention services to the area. A proposed agreement sought an annual $200,000 contribution from the county for a period of three years. Instead, the county’s Board of Commissioners took up a resolution for a one-year contract at an annual rate of $175,000 at their meeting Monday, as well as discussion about their different ideas in terms of the contract’s length and level of funding.

Commissioner Carol Griffith motioned to amend the resolution for a three-year contract instead, but still at an annual rate of $175,000. Her motion failed in a 5 to 4 vote. The board then voted on the original resolution for one year at $175,000, which passed unanimously. Commissioner Doug Helzerman, an original supporter of the one-year contract, says the board should stay open to restoring the level of funding to $200,000 after the year has passed.

Commissioner Dave Domas says there needs to be more due diligence before committing to a three-year contract. Speaking to what he feels is a lack of transparency, Domas says there needs to be a different working relationship between the county, EDC, and SPARK. Domas says it’s not been made clear what business partners the EDC and SPARK work with, or where the money goes. He added, “If this was my business and I was spending this money, and I didn’t know who got it, what they did with it and how much it was, there’d be a come to Jesus meeting pretty quickly in my office.”

Hamburg Township Supervisor and EDC Executive Committee Member Pat Hohl took issue with the idea that transparency is lacking. He says the township has received information whenever they’ve asked for it and more. He added senior members of the county’s board have approved six contracts in the past and he’s surprised that they have questions now. Hohl says he would’ve hoped those questions would’ve been answered in the first contract that the board engaged in.

SPARK Senior Vice President Phil Santer assured the Board of Commissioners providing them information isn’t a problem. He says given the board’s conversation, SPARK wants to be as transparent as possible, and that SPARK is happy to do that and looks forward to it. (DK)