Supervisors vote to not renew contract with MCEDA

The Mohave County Economic Development Authority may cease to exist after June 30 because it lost the financial support from the Mohave County Board of Supervisors.

Supervisors Pete Byers of Kingman and Tom Sockwell of Bullhead City voted against renewing a four-year contract with MCEDA, which contracts with the county to recruit industries that pay workers at least $10 per hour.

The county is paying MCEDA $189,200 for the 2000-2001 fiscal year, which concludes June 30.

The contract with MCEDA covers costs such as salaries and a vehicle.

Sockwell cited the costs to the county of the Griffith Energy Project – a power plant recruited by MCEDA – and accused MCEDA of catering to special interests and of being involved in local politics.

Byers said he tried, to no avail, to reform MCEDA policies.

Casting the sole "no" vote, Supervisor Buster Johnson of Lake Havasu said the decision could jeopardize continuing economic development in Mohave County.

Johnson placed the item on the agenda for the meeting, which the supervisors conducted before a gathering of more than 70 people in the Lake Havasu City branch of the county library.

MCEDA Executive Director Bill Goodale urged the supervisors instead to extend the contract for a year so that he could work with them.

Contacted after the decision, both Goodale and MCEDA board President Henry Varga declined comment.

Griffith spokesman Ian Calkins, who did not attend the meeting, said he was disappointed.

"We have been very supportive of MCEDA and their efforts to develop that (Interstate 40 industrial) corridor, to bring in taxpayers other than Griffith," said Calkins, who works for Copper State Consulting in Phoenix.

"Obviously, we are disappointed that the organization is not being continued because that corridor has a lot of potential."

The MCEDA board has scheduled a meeting for 9 a.m.

Thursday at its office at 3160 Shangri-La Drive.

A budget update is on the agenda.

MCEDA, which was founded in 1993, enjoyed the support of the former board majority of Johnson and Sockwell's predecessor, Jim Zaborsky of Bullhead City.

Johnson started the discussion by motioning to extend the contract, while cutting MCEDA's budget by about 8.5 percent to reflect budget cuts county departments are expected to bear for the 2001-2002 fiscal year.

His motion died for a lack of a second.

Sockwell read a two-page, typewritten statement in which he motioned for ending funding for MCEDA and called for doing economic development in-house.

He cited only two "significant achievements" of MCEDA over the past four years: Griffith, which is nearing start-up off Griffith Road and Interstate 40; and McKee Foods, which set up shop in 1995 off the Shinarump Drive exit of I-40.

"I can't hold anything against Griffith Energy for being good business people, but the county is stuck with what I consider to be a poorly negotiated contract …" Sockwell said.

Both Sockwell and Byers said they have nothing against Goodale, who became acting executive director after Don Van Brunt resigned in February 2000.

Goodale was named executive director in December 2000.

Johnson said he would be against assigning economic development in-house, and urged the board to put off a decision for two weeks.

Following advice from County Manager Ron Walker, Byers suggested changing the motion to delete any reference to in-house economic development.

Walker said the county needs to have an economic development strategy in place before deciding whether to go in-house or contract with another private entity.

Speaking to Goodale, Byers said, "I tried my best (with MCEDA) to reach a compromise.

We'll have to start over."