Lincoln County's offer to provide $100,000 a year should be a good starting point for negotiations for the Port Authority board.
The devil is in the detail of the offer and what it really means.
The county wants to set up a budget for the Port and funds will remain with the county and drawn on as the Port incurrs expenses. The first question to be asked here is: Does this allow the county commissioners to micro manage what the Port does or how the money is spent? That happened with metal mines money designated for Troy's Roosevelt Park two years ago and Troy officials were left arguing with the county that there can't be two managers for the park development.
The county says any employees hired by the Port will be paid by the county as presently done for the current Port Authority employee. It's clear that it's cheaper for an existing organization — the county — to provide the payroll benefits under it's exisitng plans than have the Port start from scratch. But what kind of control does the county retain?
What may not be clear is the underlying and unspoken tone of the conversation on Jan. 9 that pretty much said Kootenai River Development Corporation, contracted by the Port to develop the old mill site, isn't trusted because of unexplained accusations of "lack of accountability." It was also said that KRDC could be the beneficiary of the county's $100,000 to the Port. They weren't excluded despite the accusation.
Actually it appears some people would rather not deal with KRDC director and Port administrator Paul Rumelhart. There has certainly been a lot of poison spilled within the community by a bunch of people about what Rumelhart is supposedly doing or has done. At least that's the word that has gotten back to us after a certain bus ride to Missoula late last year. Someone actually said Rumelhart was building his own little empire.
We have yet to find that domain but we do keep an eye on "King Paul" because he is the lynchpin for most of the economic development occuring in this area. And he is at the center of most of the positive things happening at the old mill site despite grumblings from our so-called leadership.
He has a knack for seeing that things are done right. And equally he has a knack for stepping on just about everyone's toes, including ours, from time to time. But more than anyone else in this area, he gets things done.
For now that should be enough.
The county has made a generous offer, and rightfully there has to be some accountability for the spending of the county's $100,000. But the Port can't and shouldn't give up any of its control to the commissioners concerning their contract with an administrator, including who that administrator is. Nor can the Port be held hostage by the county because of funding it is providing.
And lest we forget, governments' best role in economic development is creating the right regulatory environment and infrastructure development. It also plays an inportant role in funding economic development efforts by others. — Roger Morris