Thursday, May 24, 2018
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Director could report to board

The possibility of one person serving as economic development director for both Sylvania and Sylvania Township is being considered in a possible reorganization of the area's Community Improvement Corporation.

The sometimes-fractious relationship between the two governments might seem to argue against one person serving both entities, but leaders from both areas say the idea is worth consideration.

Herb Hoehing, executive vice president of the corporation, has said he will retire, and the group's president has suggested that it's time to take a look at making the organization more directly responsible for development in the city and township.

“Unless someone knows about the border wars (over annexation between the city and township) they see this region as Sylvania,'' said Gary Madrzykowski, the CIG president.

He said it may be time for the city and township, “to have one community economic director, and have that person report to the CIC board.''

The relationship between the city and the township has been chronicled as contentious over court battles involving annexation, but the two governments share a fire department, are part of a successful joint recreation district, are included in the same school system, and work together in smaller ways, such as making joint purchases of road salt for each winter.

Sylvania Mayor Craig Stough noted that there would be difficulties to overcome, but it's possible an economic development director working for both governments would be successful.

He told Sylvania City Council that the needs for each government are somewhat different. If the position is created, it will have to go to someone who can draw interest to undeveloped portions of the township as well as have expertise in redevelopment of urban areas, which is the focus of the city. The person's salary as well as expenses for a reorganized corporation are other factors to consider.

Mr. Hoehing told the council that if the position is created, the Sylvania school system might hire the person, to obtain health insurance benefits and for office space, but salary and other costs would be the responsibility of the CIC.

Part of the theory behind the corporation is that it encourages business, which increases taxes to the school district. The school district has been a partner - along with the city, township, and local businesses - in the organization since its start in 1986.

It has quietly been a conduit of funds, primarily developing infrastructure to help new businesses. Most of the work has been extending water and sanitary sewer lines. It began as a way to get projects on a faster track than could be accomplished through the office of the county sanitary engineer.

The money for the work is usually extended as a loan and the corporation continues to operate on grants, repayment of loans and membership dues.

Mr. Madrzykowski said the proposed budget of $135,000 annually and other considerations are preliminary and meant to generate discussion, but that it's time for the Sylvania community to act as one when it comes to development.

The city uses a team of administrators for economic development issues and Brad Peebles is the economic development specialist for the township. However, Mr. Peebles' time to work on development is limited because he has taken over the duties of township administrator.

“I know there are people out there who know of grants and economic streams, which are probably available to us,'' Mr. Madrzykowski said.

Dennis Boyle, a township trustee, said he'd be interested in taking the concept further by seeking a combined planning commission, which could include an office for a development director. Zoning changes and other issues that take place within the limits of one government, but have an effect on the other, often occur without notice.

“There should at least be professional courtesy,'' but a planning commission with an area-wide interest would serve everyone better, he said.

Trustee Dick Moses said the idea of a joint economic development director is “fantastic. It's one of those things, which we can do together and both parties can benefit.”

Sylvania City Council president Keith Haddad agreed that annexation battles would likely diminish or end with an economic development director answering to both city and township.

Possible conflicts could be worked out before they reached a stage where one entity or the other felt a need to file a lawsuit.

“I think it's going in the right direction. I can see situations where the township has the land, but we can provide more services and both can benefit,'' he said.

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