Supervisors OK $9K for GYEDC position

By Blake Herzog Sun Staff Writer | Posted: Monday, October 6, 2014 10:05 pm

On Monday, the Yuma County Board of Supervisors voted to spend nearly $9,000 to help pay the salary of a new binational program coordinator for the Greater Yuma Economic Development Corp., despite misgivings some had over funding or oversight.

GYDEC is creating the part-time job to work with the cities of Yuma, San Luis and Somerton to start cross-border programs increase development and improve tourism, reaching into San Luis Rio Colorado and points farther south with economic development officials from those areas.

County Administrator Robert Pickels said GYDEC had fashioned a per-capita formula for deciding how to split the cost of the new person’s salary, an approach to splitting the bill that Yuma County has resisted up to now.

“This is a deviation from what we’ve committed to in the past,” he said, and approving it could have implications for what GYDEC seeks from the county in the future. The cities all fund the corporation on a per-capita basis, while the county pays what it has determined having its own economic development official.

The county’s $118,450 annual contract is included in this fiscal year’s budget. The money for the binational coordinator job will come from the money that had been set aside for the U.S.-Mexico Border Counties Coalition, which was dissolved earlier this year.

District 4 County Supervisor Tony Reyes said there is nothing in the one-year contract that represents a long-term agreement, and they could easily take a different path in future years if necessary. “At this point in time, I don’t think that’s really the kind of commitment that we’re making.”

“But once you start giving them something, it’s hard to stop,” Pickels said.

Yuma will contribute $13,029 to the position’s salary, Somerton will kick in $3,901, and Wellton $403.

The board chairman, District 5 Supervisor Greg Ferguson, said he isn’t sure about the county’s participation because the binational program would largely focus on promoting tourism, which he didn’t see as a county concern.

But Russ Clark, District 3 supervisor, said any money that flows into the area helps everyone, and the county could benefit from helping the effort. “Most people see help as a financial contribution,” he said.

The supervisors voted 4-0 to OK the expenditure, with District 2 Supervisor Russell McCloud absent.

Julie Engel, president and CEO of GYDEC, said the part-time coordinator will connect the efforts of the GYDEC, the Yuma County Chamber of Commerce, the Yuma Metropolitan Planning Organization and their counterparts in the Mexican states of Sonora and Baja California.

She said it might be difficult to find someone willing take the job on a part-time basis, but hopes the position will grow over time. “Maybe that position will become a full-time position, and maybe this organization wlll grow into an entity all its own,” she said.