The Augusta City Council will take up the issue of reimbursing Augusta Progress Inc. for a second time next Monday when the governing body holds its second meeting of 2013.
During discussion on the appropriations ordinance, the final approval from the council to pay its bills, Councilor Matt Malone said he was still against the idea of giving API the $20,000 the council voted to approve during a meeting about a year ago.
The reimbursement was for a study completed by Troy Carlson of Initiatives Inc. to determine the viability of growth at Augusta's Municipal Airport. Partnering with Andover to provide some of the utilities to the airport – which is closer to Andover than Augusta – has also been discussed.
In February of 2012, when the council voted to reimburse API $20,000 for part of the study, Councilor Ron Reavis had called studies like this one a necessary evil.
"To me the study is a necessary evil," Reavis said at the February meeting. "We have to have facts to make an informed decision."
The council approved reimbursing the funds on a 4-3 vote with Matt Childers, Mike Rawlings, Ron Reavis and Holly Harper voting yes and Sue Jones, Malone, and Mike Huddleston voting no. Mike Wallace was absent for the initial vote.
Mayor Kristey Williams said that her understanding was that API was going to do the study regardless but asked for others to participate.
"That's when we said we would pay $20,000," Mayor Williams said. "If there is a problem with API, I think we should invite them here to discuss it."
"I didn't approve it," Wallace said. "I think API does a great job, but they have a third of a million dollars invested."
API was officially formed in 1992 as an economic development group for Augusta. The city provided $25,000 a year for seed money for a few years and then the group sold the former Tri-Star building to bring in more funds. A Network Kansas eCommunity grant also provided more than $200,000 for new business loans.
They charge no dues and have no revolving funds. So any money the group spends is exhausted with no revenue stream to replace it. That is one of the primary reasons the API Board of Directors has never hired an employee to run the group. Instead, business leaders from the community meet once a month to do the work of economic development.
Malone made a motion to approve the appropriations ordinance without the $20,000 to API.
Mayor Williams asked for legal council on whether the governing body could withhold a payment it approved when it appeared on the appropriations ordinance.
"I don't think you can cancel it," City Attorney David All said. "But you might postpone it until the next meeting."
Page 2 of 2 - "Remember the $2,000 for chairs?" Wallace asked.
Williams said that money was requested but never appropriated.
"Mayor, your memory is faulty," Wallace said.
"No," City Manager Bill Keefer said. "It was never appropriated."
Huddleston seconded Malone's motion to withhold the money for API.
"This was sold to us that there would be $10,000 from both Andover and Butler County and those funds never materialized," Jones said. "Andover hasn't ponied up one penny. I don't think it would hurt one iota to delay payment."
The measure passed 5-2 with Mike Martin, Jones, Malone, Huddleston and Wallace voting not to release the funds and Childers and Rawlings voting against. Reavis was absent from the meeting.
The issue will come back before the council at its next meeting on Jan. 21.