Facing a tough financial situation like the city of Sedgwick currently does, a lot of hard decisions have to be made. One such decision was reached recently as the Sedgwick City Council voted unanimously not to extend its contract with the Harvey County Economic Development Council through 2018 — though not due to any issues with the partnership, other than the monetary commitment.
"The real crux of the matter was the finances," said council member Thom Noone. "There's only so many dollars to spend. You just have to create a priority."
As the city has relinquished its EMS license and begun contracting services with Halstead within the past year, the focus has been on managing a more reasonable and feasible budget.
With the limitations Sedgwick faces currently, the cooperative EDC agreement was an area where the city saw an opportunity to cut costs.
"Given where we are and what our priorities need to be right now, the financially responsible way to go is to use that money elsewhere," Noone said.
Moving forward, Noone did not rule out a return to the partnership with Harvey County EDC, but that is an arrangement the governing body will likely need to address on an annual basis for the time being — analyzing its financial standing at the end of each year before re-entering the cooperative agreement.
Executive Director of Harvey County Economic Development Beth Shelton is also optimistic about the future membership of Sedgwick.
Shelton attended a city council meeting a few weeks ago and was made aware of the gravity of Sedgwick's financial situation and the direction the governing body was leaning. Even when presenting to the council last October, to address past due payments from 2017, Shelton said she felt there was still a will to participate in the partnership — a unifying theme among the Harvey County municipalities.
"I feel that the other partners are supportive and I felt that Sedgwick was even supportive. When we were there in October of last year, they were complementary of what we were doing," Shelton said. "Hopefully, as Sedgwick gets back on track we can get them re-engaged in the future, too."
Council members noted they saw value in what is offered by the EDC as well, through promoting the community and industrial park and seeking out development opportunities for both. How that is handled moving forward is unclear at this time. Shelton noted the EDC will honor the contract through 2017, but plans for 2018 are less certain and something she noted she will have to discuss with the board of directors.
What is certain is that an adjustment will have to be made to the EDC budget for the coming fiscal year. While a percentage of sales tax was already planned to be phased out, Sedgwick's decision means the EDC will not be collecting its allotted $11,640 as part of the cooperative agreement. Shelton had already made attempt to tighten the budget and cut costs to the partner communities, which will now require some additional efforts.
"I'm going to have to go back and look at it and see if there are some areas that we can tighten up or rework some way, but yeah, it does affect it," Shelton said.
As for Sedgwick, after cutting the expense of the contracted payment to Harvey County EDC, economic development plans are now something that has to be addressed in-house — as growth is something the city still wants to help address its financial situation.
Plans for such endeavors have not been discussed, but are something Noone knows will come up at future meetings.
"That's a bridge that hasn't been crossed yet," Noone said. "It's something we're going to have to address since we've put it on our own shoulders. It'll become an idea of discussion on how to move forward."
Given the collaborative approach that has become predominant in the region, Shelton is hopeful that path will eventually lead Sedgwick back to the partnership with the EDC.
"We definitely want to figure out how we can get them re-engaged," Shelton said, "so we can present a united front."