Economic development officer eyed

The city is planning to recruit a new economic development officer in 2016 despite the elimination of Rivercorp earlier this year.

Economic development will be brought under the umbrella of City Hall, but council Monday revealed plans to hire someone to head the service.

“We are close to doing recruitment for our economic development officer, it won’t be that long into 2016,” said Mayor Andy Adams during the first day of budget planning meetings Monday at City Hall.

He added that the city will also be looking at re-structuring how the city delivers tourism services.

The announcement came after Coun. Larry Samson took a shot at the city’s $576,180 economic development budget.

“I think there’s an opportunity to use this (money) to offset the tax increase,” Samson said. “We can always bring it back for next year if we need to increase funding but for this year I don’t think they need the full $576,000.”

Samson attempted to reduce the budget by $150,000 but Adams said with the transition of bringing economic development in house on the horizon, that the budget should remain intact.

“I would caution against reduction at this point,” Adams said. “I would rather see money in there.”

City Manager Deborah Sargent agreed.

“I think it’s premature to take the money out of the budget because there are extraordinary one-time expenses as we manage this transition. Those are the costs of recruitment and the costs of moving forward with a new model, particularly on the tourism side,” Sargent said. “So at this point we wanted to have the full funding model available to allow for smoother transition and to allow the new economic development officer to be up and running.”

Coun. Charlie Cornfield suggested council adjust Samson’s proposed reduction so that the budget didn’t take as big a hit.

After Samson withdrew his motion, Cornfield put forward a new one to reduce the economic development budget by $76,180.

But that didn’t fly either.

“This is a base budget we’re working on. I think just throwing a number out of the blue, it doesn’t make sense in the long-term,” Kerr said. “I can’t support pulling money out now to put it back in the future.”

Samson argued that cutting out some of the funding would be sending a positive message to the public.

“It’s been an election issue – people wanted to see change and get value for their dollar,” Samson said.

“I think by reducing it, it does show the citizens that we are listening and it does show we’re trying to keep the tax increase down.”

Coun. Colleen Evans said she didn’t hear it quite the same way.

“I agree with Coun. Samson this was a significant election issue but I think what I heard loud and clear is the citizens want a return on their investment,” Evans said.

“They want to see accountable economic development moving Campbell River forward in terms of prosperity.”

In the end, the motion to reduce the economic development budget was defeated, leaving the full $576,180 in the economic development budget for 2016.

Ron Bowles, the city’s general manager of corporate services, said, however, that the city can expect to get back some of the money it paid into Rivercorp for 2015 but that he couldn’t estimate just how much.