Committee to talk about WCEDA funding

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Thursday, July 15, 2010
— The Walworth County Board soon could talk about whether to continue financial support of what could be considered the county’s biggest business association.

The county for several years has contributed $50,000 annually to the Walworth County Economic Development Alliance. That’s a big portion of the alliance’s budget, board President Kim Howarth said.

Administrator Dave Bretl in a letter to board members suggested the board talk early in this budget cycle about continued support of the alliance. The county’s executive committee on Monday will take up the discussion. The full county board could take on the matter in August.

Bretl recommends the continued funding of the alliance, but knows some supervisors strongly oppose doing so, the letter states.

“I was hoping to get a little direction,” Bretl said.

Bretl usually cautions against singling out one agency or department so early in the budget discussion, he said.

Funding one program could mean cuts to another, and talking about a single project doesn’t give board members context, he said.

However, the alliance is at a crucial point as it seeks to hire a new executive director, Bretl said.

A committee this month will interview candidates to replace Fred Burkhardt, said Walworth County Economic Development Alliance President Kim Howarth. Burkhardt was the executive vice president of the alliance. In April he took a job out of state.

Howarth said the group’s purpose could change drastically without county support.

“If the county stops funding the agency, it cannot perform the same functions it was designed to perform when it was created by the county,” Howarth said.

The alliance works to foster economic growth in the county. It also administers a $500,000 revolving loan fund for small or new businesses and manages a $685,000 training grant for aspiring entrepreneurs.

The alliance was formed in 2005. For several years, the county contributed $100,000 per year and later cut that amount to $50,000.

This isn’t the first time the board has considered financing for the alliance.

County board Supervisor Dan Kilkenny in January urged the county board to seek an audit or financial review of the alliance. The board did not choose to do so.

Last updated: 2:22 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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