Village of Lake Delton ends funding for Sauk County Development Corporation
The Village of Lake Delton Board voted Sept. 28 to not make a 2016 financial commitment to the 40-year-old Sauk County Development Corporation (SCDC).
The village has made contributions since 1979 but in a 5-2 vote the board turned down a request from Keri Olson after her presentation to board members. Olson is the Sauk County community and public relations analyst representing SCDC.
Olson described the corporation as a “quasi-governmental tax exempt organization” saying its mission is to “retain, expand and attract new businesses to Sauk County.” It was formed in 1976 when the Badger Army Ammunition Plant outside of Baraboo was preparing for massive layoffs.
A group of Sauk County business people — concerned about a rapid rise in unemployment due to the plant’s closing — rallied to form a committee to try to make sure there would still be economic vitality and quality of life for Sauk County residents, she said.
The SCDC partners with businesses and government entities receiving 50 percent of its funds from municipalities — which historically have included Lake Delton, Baraboo, Reedsburg, Sauk City, Prairie du Sac, Spring Green and Plain. Whatever funding municipalities contribute is matched by Sauk County.
About a year ago the executive director for the corporation left the organization and according to Olson, “the Board of Directors thought it was a good time to go through some real soul-searching and strategic planning and engaged in an eight-month process to do so.”
In June the SCDC learned that the city of Baraboo decided to withhold its usual contribution. While Baraboo’s mayor told the corporation the city supports county-wide economic development, he plans on recommendeding to the city’s Common Council that they do not vote to support the corporation in 2016.
“At that point it became a crossroads,” Olson said. “The (SCDC) board made a point of how are we going to move forward.” The board made a decision to ask municipalities to “stay involved in a good faith effort for 2016 at the base dollar amount (of $1,250) that SCDC’s bylaws would allow.”
As SCDC scrambles to “regroup and transform” Olson said SCDC’s temporary plan is to operate off of the reduced request of $1,250 from municipalities, the same match from Sauk County, the corporation’s reserves and a limited amount of work by paid employees.
The SCDC has created a task force with a series of meetings planned to decide where the organization is headed. Olson hopes SCDC will learn what other agencies and organizations are doing in Sauk County that relate to economic development.
“Where are there gaps,” she asked. “Where are there some things in one particular community that an economic development group says we need assistance with that?”
Olson said the task force’s goal will be “what can this organization provide that will be relevant and meaningful to municipalities as well as to the private sector.”
After Olson’s presentation, Tom Diehl noted that the board made a motion at a previous meeting that 2015 would be the last year the village supported the organization. He said the board felt “it’s pretty hard to see tangible results when you don’t have an executive director.”
However, Diehl came on board with Olson’s proposal saying “I think this is a real breath of fresh air. I have a lot more confidence giving you the $1,250 today than (what was discussed) at the last meeting.”
Village Board member Gordon Priegel made the motion to deny Olson’s request for the SCDC saying, “I’m not happy with the organization. Last year you said they would be improving things but I haven’t seen it yet.”
Only Diehl and fellow board member Les Bremer voted to approve the funding.
“This does not discourage me,” Olson said. “What it tells me is that we have work to do. We need to bring back in that feeling of trust that individuals would have for the SCDC — that yes, it is viable and important.”