By Sandy Barnes
Mayor Tom Patterson advised rehiring consultant Stephanie Salazar during a discussion of the Town’s economic development committee at the Tuesday, Aug. 4 Board of Trustees meeting. While calling the efforts of the Berthoud Economic Resource Team “exciting” and “energizing,” Patterson said the momentum of the group has been difficult to sustain since Salazar left in February.
Salazar worked for the Town for three months on an interim basis after being hired by former Town Administrator Jim White last fall. Patterson noted that there is $37,000 remaining in the budget for economic development. “I would personally allocate $21,000 of that to rehire Stephanie Salazar,” he said.
Trustees Jeff Hindman and Glen Buckingham supported Patterson’s suggestion to hire Salazar. “What we need is a paid staff member,” said Hindman. “The coordinator position is one of our top priorities.” However, Mayor Pro Tem David Gregg said he thought it would be more appropriate to focus on hiring a new town administrator before moving forward with an economic developer. Trustee Dick Shepard added that he felt hiring an economic developer should be a separate issue from the discussion of the role of BERT.
Buckingham pointed out that the previous town administrator had been directed to move forward with hiring an economic coordinator. “I could proceed with this,” said Gary Suiter, who began serving as interim town administrator on Aug. 1.
While agreeing that the Town needs an economic developer, resident Dorian Ryan said she thought the position should go out to public bid. She also expressed concern about the Town’s ability to come up with funding for marketing activities, and concurred with Trustee Michael Patrick’s suggestion to form an independent economic development corporation.
During his remarks about BERT and its function, Patrick said that in Erie, where there is an economic development group that functions separate from the Town, complications regarding conflicts of interest don’t exist. Trustee John Bauer noted that last spring, when it became clear that Town staff could not take on the task of economic development, BERT was formed and empowered to move forward. “One of the key aspects was to provide a staff member to facilitate, and we hired an economic development consultant,” Bauer added. “We should empower them with a knowledgeable and experienced coordinator.”
While focusing on the advisory capacity of BERT, trustees discussed its oversight and how the committee should communicate with the Town Board. “BERT has been doing a lot of things, and most of them have been self-directed,” remarked Patrick.
“Process is important said Shepard. “What I would like to see is for them to come before us and tell us what’s going on.”
“We’re asking for more direct contact with the board and more access to having decisions made,” said BERT Chairman Becky Justice-Hemmann. Originally it was her understanding that the trustee liaisons to the committee were to report to the board, she added. Bauer and Gregg said they would like to see more communication from the liaisons.
In a list of written questions presented to the board, the BERT committee asked for clarification of its role and responsibilities and for direction on external communication with organizations such as the state economic development commission. BERT also requested a budget for the coming year and asked that an economic development consultant be hired.