SCDRC discusses losing membersMembers and staff of the South Central Dakota Regional Council Thursday discussed the ramifications of Jamestown and Stutsman County leaving the group during an SCDRC special meeting. City and county officials were present.
By: Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun
Members and staff of the South Central Dakota Regional Council Thursday discussed the ramifications of Jamestown and Stutsman County leaving the group during an SCDRC special meeting. City and county officials were present.
The discussion followed a Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. Executive Board meeting Tuesday, when the board recommended Jamestown and Stutsman County drop their shared membership in the SCDRC.
The SCDRC runs the Small Business Development Center, which helps people prepare business reports and apply for loans.
“To have one county pull out of it is not good,” said Joe Neis, secretary-treasurer of the SCDRC. “… the benefits for this county are way more than they are for any other county.”
The SCDRC administers loan funds as well, and some of them would still be available to people in Stutsman County should it drop membership with the SCDRC.
However, Stutsman County would no longer have a representative on the committees that allocate money, and the committees would likely prioritize member counties over nonmembers.
“The reality is that our priority will be for the member counties,” said Becky Meidinger, a member of the SCDRC staff, during the meeting but before city and county officials arrived. “Yes, we will provide them with some services, maybe, but they’ll be low on the totem pole.”
Neis said Stutsman County benefits more from the SCDRC than any of the nine counties that are members of the organization, partly because the SCDRC office is located there and partly because the main recipients of SCDRC money are in Stutsman County.
“For the significant dollars that you’re putting in, it’s a lower amount of dollars than the return for this county,” Neis said. “I don’t understand why you’re even looking at thinking about this.”
Stutsman County paid $11,914 in membership dues to belong to the SCDRC for 2012, and the city of Jamestown paid $20,286.
That means the two government entities spent a total of $32,200 to belong to the SCDRC — not the $72,000 figure cited by several officials on Tuesday.
Stutsman County, including the city of Jamestown, pays 35.6 percent of all dues to the SCDRC. Logan County pays 3.8 percent.
However, in 2011, Stutsman County accounted for 37 percent of the customers, 37 percent of the sessions, 36 percent of the contact hours and 30 percent of preparation hours at the Small Business Development Center, which is run by the SCDRC.
The possibility of the city and county dropping membership with the SCDRC came as a surprise to several SCDRC members.
As it turned out, it had been previously brought up to SCDRC President Dean Entzminger at the annual conference of the North Dakota Association of Counties.
Entzminger said he’d talked to three county officials as part of a casual conversation in a hallway and had not believed he should bring it up to the SCDRC board.
Ramon Gumke, a member of the JSDC Executive Board and of the Jamestown City Council, said the discussion had originated out of questions as to whether the money spent on the SCDRC was spent as efficiently as possible.
“If I have to expend property tax dollars now to pay for a planner now, it’s the citizens of Jamestown again who are paying for something that, if we could have offset with the dollars we’re spending somewhere else, that would make sense,” said Jamestown Mayor Katie Andersen, suggesting money spent on the SCDRC could pay for a city planner instead.
During the meeting with city and county officials, Deb Kantrud, the SCDRC executive director, gave a summary of the organization’s financial impact and its activities in the past few years.
“You’re the voice that a lot of the rural communities depend upon,” said Meidinger, suggesting that if Jamestown pulled out of the SCDRC, other communities “are going to say you’re being really selfish about this region.”
Meidinger noted the city pays its SCDRC dues with sales tax money — some of which comes from the surrounding small communities that also benefit from the work of the SCDRC, but which also pay their own dues separately.
The JSDC will discuss the matter, including the recommendation of its own executive board to drop membership in the SCDRC, at its meeting in December.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453
or by email at email@example.com