2017-04-13 / Front Page

City Council to Discuss EDC Grants Wednesday

City Council Candidates answer question concerning EDC’s recent approval of grants to local businesses

The Lexington City Council will discuss three grants recently approved by the Lexington Economic Development Corporation (EDC) at their April 12 meeting. They may also take a vote on each grant.

In February, the EDC approved a grant for $9,500 for the Fourth Street Bakery, and in March they approved grants totaling $70,000, one of $20,000 for the Lexington Youth Baseball and Softball Association (LYBSA), and another, $50,000, for INSPIRIT’s new facility being built on Hwy 77 just south of the City Limits. These are the grants the City Council will discuss.

In January of this year, the EDC told the Leader they would like to invest the majority of its resources in the Lexington economy. The EDC collects between $5,000 and $7,000 per month and it currently has over $300,000 in the bank. Approving these grants, and others, shows that the Board is doing what they said they wanted to do. However, the three grants mentioned above also must be approved by the Lexington City Council, and the INSPIRIT grant must go before the County Commissioners. Hence the discussion this Wednesday at the City Council meeting.

In light of the Council’s discussion this week, and since the City Election is coming up in May, the Leader decided to take the question of the $50K grant for INSPIRIT to the people running for City Council. We asked, “The Lexington EDC recently approved a grant application for $50,000 to benefit a company that is constructing their building just outside of the city limits. The City and Lee County will vote whether or not to approve this grant. If you were sitting on the City Council today, how would you vote on this matter and why?”

Five of the six candidates running for three positions sent their answers to the Leader. Their answers, which were limited to 50 words or less, are as follows:

Incumbent City Council member Tim Brown said, “The question can be argued either way. At this time, I would vote “for”, because some pet projects have received EDC funding in the past. My understanding is the EDC is sitting on a fair amount of uncommitted funds. I have yet to understand how EDC funds should be used.”

Cindy Herklotz, who was sitting on the City Council when the Sales Tax increase to form an EDC in 1999 was brought to a vote before the citizens, said, “The 1999 EDC ballot was clear about how the money should be used. This is a new business with plans to create employment. That is what the ballot was proposing. The last time this money was used for a new business was when Cefco and Dollar General came to town.”

Billy Frank Tillery answered, “I can’t speak on the specific grant in question, but I feel the LEDC funds should be used for revitalization of the downtown area, to bring commerce and industry back to our town. Lexington used to be known as a trade town. Now it’s just a bedroom town for Austin.”

Bobby Wesner said, “I would vote “no” on this matter. I would suggest cutting the amount in half, and offer a grant of 25,000 dollars to new developing businesses willing to open within the city limits. Perhaps annexation of this area could be discussed. Our city needs economic development and revenue to prosper.”

Chris Wornell said, “I think it’s a great thing to have this business here. However, their new building is not located in the city limits, so I would vote “no” on this grant. These business development grants should be for people wishing to open a business within the city limits of our town.”

Garland Moffit, who sits on the City Council, but whose seat is one up for election and who is running again, did not have time to submit his answer.

The Leader has also submitted three more questions to each candidate in order to see how they might vote on some other issues, including the Police Department, infrastructure, and growth. One question will be addressed in each of the next three issues, leading up to the May 6 Election. The intention is to encourage our readers to take an active role in the City politics and to encourage every eligible voter to go to the polls on election day.

The City Council meeting will be held at the Woodson Building on Wednesday, April 12, at 6 p.m. The community is encouraged to attend.

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