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City to shift economic priorities
La Grande to take more proactive leadership role
The La Grande City Council supports a shift to a more proactive role in economic development in the 2014-15 fiscal year.
During Tuesday night’s meeting of the annual council retreat, councilors said they support more leadership from the city with partnering organizations La Grande Main Street and the Union County Development Corp.
With La Grande Main Street, the city is looking to amend its memorandum of understanding to make La Grande Community and Economic Development Director Charlie Mitchell the chair of Main Street’s business development committee. The intent with that change is to bring some expertise to the committee, said City Manager Robert Strope.
The city council also agreed the city should put a sunset on Main Street funding unless the organization can secure stable funding for its coordinator position.
Another change La Grande is looking to make is to increase communication with UCEDC by requiring both organizations to share information on leads for potential businesses within three days.
Strope said he would also like to see a professional study done to help the city recruit and fill vacancies.
Discussion on the first night of the retreat centered on looming fiscal issues that will likely result in deep cuts within the next five years. Councilors noted that the state’s restrictions on property tax increases have limited revenue for the long term.
“There’s no solution to this unless something happens at the (state) level,” Councilor Gary Lillard said.
There was some disagreement, however, on what to do in the meantime. Some councilors advocated trying to maintain the current level of services, while others suggested taking action now to try to avoid more draconian measures in the future.
“Like they say in Washington, D.C., ‘Just kicking the can down the road,’” said Councilor John Bozarth.
Those who suggested maintaining current services said shifting funds wouldn’t change the need for deep cuts down the road.
The city council also discussed the possibility of under levying the Urban Renewal District, an idea that did not gain much traction during the retreat.