Budget Committee discusses future of economic development duties in Carter County

Though the final decision on the Planning Department’s budget for the year seemingly came to a close during the special called meeting, discussion about what to do with the commission’s former economic development duties continued into Monday night’s Budget Committee meeting.

County Mayor Russell Barnett brought two possible solutions to the issue.

“We will do whatever it takes to make it work,” Barnett said.

Option One is to hire someone to come in and take on the responsibility of economic development in Planning Director Chris Schuettler’s place.

Option Two would be to put the responsibilities into the mayor’s office like it was originally located under former Mayor Humphrey.

In the case of Option Two, that would put the responsibility under Mayor’s Executive Assistant Abby Frye.

He also suggested using the Joint Economic and Community Development Board for the responsibilities as well.

“NETREP is supposed to step it up a notch or two,” he said.

Commissioner Ross Garland expressed concerns about the additional workload this would put on Frye’s plate.

“Is this something that you could handle or even would be interested in handling?” Garland asked her.

Frye replied she would do what the mayor wished of her.

Option Two presents the necessity for special training to assume those responsibilities, requiring tens of hours of courses before Frye could assume those responsibilities.

Barnett advocated for Option One.

“I am not an economic developer,” he said. “If we need to send somebody, we can do that, but we will need some money to fund that.”

Commissioner Isaiah Grindstaff said they should pursue a separate person to do the job as opposed to Frye.

“If we are going to spend money to do economic development, I really do think it should be another person,” Grindstaff said. “That way, they can devote their 37 and a half hours a week to doing this.”

He said it was inefficient to expect someone like Frye to split their daily attention between two different jobs.

Ultimately, the committee accepted a proposal for Option Two, but the motion failed, leaving the conversation unresolved.

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