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Red River Region Business Incubator has officially been removed from the Paris Economic Development Corp. budget.
PEDC board members voted to adopt a budget Tuesday that officially removed funding for R3bi.
Bruce Carr said he and fellow board member Vicki Ballard have met twice with R3bi board President Sydney Young to work out a means to transition R3bi away from Paris Economic Development Corp. What happens next is still largely unknown.
“We’re trying to develop a to-do list of things that need to be done to decouple PEDC from the incubator,” he said.
Young said her understanding was they were looking for ways for the PEDC to continue funding R3bi at some level. She presented a “matrix” pulled from the state’s legal requirements that she said could be developed into a checklist that would determine if clients of the incubator met the requirement for PEDC funding.
“The city doesn’t want you to spend your money illegally,” she said. “But, I think this matrix gives you some options to continue spending your money legally and wisely.”
Board member David Turner said PEDC might be able to help incubator businesses on a case-by-case basis. Chair Rebecca Clifford said she might be willing to look at doing it like other incentives PEDC offers.
Young said that wasn’t what she had in mind, but R3bi would “take any kind of incentives you would offer.”
“If we part ways, we have a lot of work to do,” she said. “With our current funding – and we are looking into options – we wouldn’t be able to exist with PEDC funding us on a case-by-case basis.”
R3bi has been talking to several groups about funding, but Young said she could not say who they are yet.
Mayor A.J. Hashmi has suggested the city may pick up the $89,000 the economic development corporation planned for R3bi next year. PEDC board Vice-Chair Toni Clem turned to council members Cleonne Drake, John Wright and Matt Frierson at Tuesday’s meeting and asked how likely they thought it that is to happen. Each said it seemed a real possibility, but no decision would be made until after the city’s budget hearings, which begin next week.
With the resignation of Director Hank Betke, one of the incubator’s biggest expenses is its building at 1445 Clarksville St. R3bi is looking at options, but Young said the board would prefer to keep operations where they are until ready to move. Having to leapfrog offices would not benefit the clients, she said.
“If we don’t get the money from the city to see us through the transition, we will have to look for a place to move quickly,” she said.
Because the budget matter has been settled, the board decided after its closed session to forgo seeking an attorney general’s opinion about whether the economic development corporation could fund the incubator.
Although all discussion on the opinion had before then been in open session, the board had scheduled it in closed session for discussion with the city attorney. Clifford said the board did not discuss the wording of the opinion request or R3bi’s funding while in closed session.
“I did the talking,” City Attorney Kent McIlyar said.
After almost an hour in closed session, board members initially voted without notifying those still waiting outside that it had come back into open session. The action was repeated after that was brought to their attention.
By Jeff Parish, eParisExtra