Routine VCDC payment approved

Routine VCDC payment approved
The Vermillion City Council approved a routine quarterly payment of $42,500 to the Vermillion Chamber of Commerce and Development Company (VCDC), despite an attempt by Alderman Roger Jeck to table action on the issue.

"Without a little more conversation from the city council, I'd like to table the payment to the chamber and the development company," he said near the end of Monday's meeting. "I'm not entirely comfortable with sending that amount of money. I understand that they need the money … but I think everyone on the council should hear a little bit more from the board (of the VCDC)."

The VCDC's finances are currently scrutiny, after its board was made aware earlier this month of discrepancies in financial matters.

Tina Harnois, the VCDC's program manager, resigned Nov. 8.

During the annual budgeting process that concluded in September 2006, the city council agreed to allocate $170,000 to the VCDC in 2007.

"What we do is we pay that on a quarterly basis," City Manager John Prescott said Tuesday in a phone interview with the Plain Talk.

The fourth quarter invoice from the VCDC normally arrives in city hall in October.

"Typically we would have paid that amount on the Oct. 1 meeting, but this year it didn't get turned in until recently," Prescott said. "So it was on the claims list last night."

The invoice, he added, typically was delivered to the city by an employee who is no longer working at the VCDC office. "That employee apparently didn't get the invoice turned in," Prescott said. "We just received it sometime between the Nov. 5 meeting and last night."

Lisa Ketcham, executive director of the VCDC, delivered the invoice to the city the week of Nov. 5, he said.

City Finance Officer Mike Carlson noted that the final payment was requested by Farron Pratt, the VCDC board chairman. "The payment will be routed through the chairman and the board members to be used and overseen by them," Carlson said. "They were anticipating doing it since they are in the process of seeing just exactly where they are in their cash position knowing they have some payments that they need to make."

"I'm still uncomfortable until the full council knows a little more information about this," said Jeck, who is a member of the VCDC board.

"If we choose not to send this payment," asked Alderman Mary Edelen, "then what are we doing to the financial structure of the VCDC, because they have to make certain payments?

"I'm sure there are bills coming due for them and they are depending on this at this time, and we may be just getting them in more hot water," she said. "This is a large sum of money and I'm sure they are depending on it now, and they have certain bills that need to be paid immediately."

Alderman Nathan Adams, noting that the payment is already budgeted, made a motion for its approval. The motion was seconded by Alderman Ray Hofman.

"I think the Chamber has a handle on what is going on," Alderman Jere Chapman said. "I think the board is very actively involved in making sure that things are being done right. We can't punish everybody for what may be has happened.

"We don't know all of the details," he added. "I think it would be an unfair financial burden (to the VCDC), and therefore I think we should support the motion."

"From my position of being on the board, I'd like the city council to know a little bit more about what's going on," Jeck said, "and I don't know technically how that will work, but I'm comfortable that the money will be well spent.

"I'd feel more comfortable if city council members knew more," he said.

When discussion ended, Jeck was the only alderman to cast a negative vote on the issue.

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