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The Mitchell County Courthouse

The Mitchell County Board of Supervisors is continuing its discussion of how to handle grant requests from cities and organizations. 

During the board's April meeting, Supervisor Stan Walk proposed setting aside $50,000 to $100,000 in tax increment financing revenue each year to give to the Mitchell County Economic Development Commission so its board of directors can decide which grant request would serve a public purpose and should be awarded. 

Walk said this would mean the taxpayers would no longer have to pay for the grants. 

He noted the supervisors can't use TIF funds if they award the grants themselves as they have been doing.  

County Attorney Mark Walk said one advantage of Supervisor Walk's proposal is the MCEDC board has eight members, which means more people would have oversight.  

However, if the board made a decision the supervisors didn't like, they couldn't do anything about it, he said. 

Supervisor Steven Smolik said members of the public vote on the supervisors to make decisions on their behalf. 

"To give away some of our decision-making away to the economic development board would be a slap in the face to everyone in this room," he said, referring to the county residents sitting in the audience. 

Supervisor Barb Francis under Walk's proposal "we wouldn't get the flak" when it comes to decisions on grants. 

However, she said she doesn't want to add any more TIF projects to the county's list. 

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Walk said he would drop his proposal since the other two supervisors aren't in favor of it. 

The discussion on grants began during the April 2 meeting due to a recently-released audit report for the county for the fiscal year ending July 1, 2018. 

In its report, the firm of Renner & Birchem questioned whether some of the grants awarded that year were for a public purpose. 

The expenditures in question were $14,250 for the Riceville Industrial Park; $2,500 to the city of Mitchell for a park project; $1,800 to the Mitchell County Substance Abuse Coalition; and $500 each to the Carpenter BBQ Bash, the St. Ansgar Senior Center (for coats), the Mitchell County Booster Club, the Riceville Community Club (for Wapsi Days), and St. Ansgar Town & Country Days.

Renner & Birchem recommended the county establish written policies and procedures for awarding grants and document the public purpose served by each expenditure.

During the April 9 meeting, County Attorney Walk gave the supervisors a brief initial proposal for a new policy on awarding grants. 

Supervisor Walk said he would like to have the county attorney give a recommendation on each grant request before the supervisors approve them. 

County Attorney Walk said he would return with a more detailed policy proposal at a future supervisors meeting. 

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