After a two-week delay and a lengthy discussion Monday night, Mayor Kristey Williams broke a 4-4 tie vote in favor of paying out the $20,000 the council had voted to give Augusta Progress Inc. in February.
The council had voted 4-3 – with Mike Wallace absent - to give API the annual allotment of $20,000 which was to be used to pay for half of the study that was performed to determine the viability of new development at the Augusta Municipal airport. Some members of the council took issue with the quality of the information the study provided and others expressed concerns about the council partnering with API for a study when the group has enough money to pay for it without the council's participation.
The only revenue stream API has is any grant they are awarded, money from the City of Augusta and whatever interest can be earned from easily liquidated investments of the group's funds. Any money that is used is consumed. There are no membership dues or annual payments to the group.
Willis Wilson, addressing the council on behalf of API, said he felt like the study was appropriate.
"The council voted to approve the money in February, " he said. "You have your responsibilities and we have ours. It was a good study that got us good results and built some synergies we wouldn't have had otherwise."
Councilor Matt Malone said he questioned the agreements the council has since Andover Mayor Ben Lawrence came before council in Augusta and said there was no reason his council wouldn't participate in the study and then, during a meeting of the Andover City Council, told the governing body to table the issue that has never resurfaced.
The City of Andover and Butler County are paying up to $5,000 each for the next phase of the potential formation of a regional partnership that would help extend utilities from Andover to the airport and result in a cost and revenue sharing plan between participating agencies. Bids are being opened Tuesday to determine an attorney to help mediate this type of interlocal agreement.
Councilor Mike Wallace said he wasn't advocating withholding the money from API.
"I just think we should keep the money in the fund at the city in case API comes up with something really neat," Wallace said. "Then we would have $59,000 to give them instead of just $39,000 that is in that fund now."
Councilor Ron Reavis disagreed with that logic.
"We need the partnership with API to do economic development," Reavis said. "I think even mentioning and wanting to deny this after approving it shows a lack of respect and support to our economic development board."
Reavis then made a motion to allocate the funds in question and it was seconded by Matt Childers.
Page 2 of 2 - Malone reiterated the idea that the funds weren't being withheld from API.
Childers said he felt like $20,000 per year is a bargain considering the group is an all-volunteer board with no paid staff.
"They do what is in the best interest in the community," Childers said. "Withholding these funds pulls the rug out from under them. What happens next time when they come to us to work together on something and we say we will and then when they come back for payment, we say no again?"
Mike Wallace said his constituents have asked him about why the city would give money to API during these tough financial times.
Dalton Patterson, who worked with API to help bring several industries to the area said just those businesses in the Industrial Park that API helped bring to Augusta provide about $50,000 in property taxes each year plus utility payments.
Mike Martin asked about the success API has had with loans to downtown businesses. Some of those firms have gone out of business or are in arrears on repayment of loans to API.
Mayor Williams pointed out that those funds came from a grant from Network Kansas that the group received in exchange for tax credits.
Reavis, Childers, Mike Rawlings and Sue Jones voted in favor of paying API the money the council approved last February. Malone, Wallace, Martin and Mike Huddleston voted against the motion resulting in a tie that was broken by Mayor Williams who voted to allocate the funds.