LEMOORE — After an initial discussion ended with an impasse, the Lemoore City Council decided at its meeting Tuesday night to rekindle the city’s partnership with Kings Economic Development Corporation.
At the Oct. 17, 2017, meeting, a memorandum of understating between the city and Kings EDC was brought before Council. Council debated the issue and in the end, there was no motion to accept the contract.
Since then, Interim City Manager Nathan Olson said multiple Council members had asked that the issue be brought back before them, which is allowed because no action was taken the first time.
Councilwoman Holly Blair, who was critical of Kings EDC at the October meeting, said she was not happy about the issue being brought back again. She was especially confounded because she believed there was a consensus from council in October that the city would not move forward with any contract, yet the item came back on the consent calendar, where items are usually not discussed because they are considered routine.
“We’ve already had this discussion once before, and I personally don’t like the precedent being set that we, as a council, decide one thing and they can just continue to come in and badger and hopefully get it on the consent calendar and passed and nobody notices,” Blair said.
When John Lehn, president of Kings EDC, spoke later during the meeting, he clarified that no one from the organization asked that the contract be put on the city’s agenda again, though he was glad that it was reconsidered.
Mayor Pro Tem Eddie Neal, who was also unconvinced of Kings EDC’s promise in October to bring growth to Lemoore, changed his tune Tuesday night and said he believed the organization would work to live up to its promises and was willing to give it a second chance.
Councilman Dave Brown gave his take, saying he was willing to give Kings EDC another chance if it meant bringing more economic development to Lemoore. He said the organization is contracted to meet several requirements, and if it doesn’t meet expectations, then council could reconsider the partnership once again.
“I would like them to be out there beating that drum for us,” Brown said. “I really want to give them a chance and go forth and see what’s going to happen.”
Councilman Jeff Chedester and Mayor Ray Madrigal both agreed, with Madrigal saying he thought Kings EDC’s expertise, knowledge and contacts across the state would strengthen the city.
Lehn was finally given the chance to speak on behalf of his organization’s merits, and he reminded Council that projects don’t come around overnight, sometimes taking years to come to fruition.
“If we’re skipping down that road arm in arm, I think we’re going to get a lot done,” Lehn said, adding he believes the contract outlines the right strategies for Lemoore to succeed.
Blair was unconvinced and said there was nothing to show for the 45 years the city partnered with Kings EDC, which ended in 2014. She asked for a guarantee that something would come from the partnership, but said she knew nothing would change.
After some more back and forth discussion, Neal moved to approve the one-year $20,000 contract with Kings EDC. It was a 4-1 vote, with Blair being the only “no” vote.
Reached by phone on Friday, Blair said she was still skeptical that the contract was awarded based solely on promised outcome. She said she didn’t see anything new in Kings EDC’s promises of “deliverables.”
She said after talking with several constituents, she believes the community is ready to see changes that are not being reflected through council actions.
“Things won’t change if we keep doing the same things over and over,” Blair said.
Lehn, on the other hand, said on Friday that Kings EDC is “extremely pleased” to partner with Lemoore in a formal way once again.
“Contributions of the Economic Development Corporation on a countywide basis have continued to be strong and significant over the last several years” Lehn said, adding every nearby community benefits in some way from the services the organization provides, even if they are not strictly members.
Lehn said Kings EDC received a lot of support from Lemoore city staff and he’s pleased a majority of the Council recognize the city’s need to diversify its economy and attract more businesses.
“We look forward to a positive relationship and working with businesses to ensure they remain profitable and growing,” Lehn said.