City Council: Small Business Incubator Program, the annual city audit, and litigation
The Morgantown City Council turned their attention to the Small Business Incubator Program, the annual city audit, and litigation against the city in their monthly meeting Thursday night.
Greg Drake and Dwayne McKinney came before the Council to give a report on the Small Business Incubator Program. Drake told the Council that the program started three years ago with $20,000, of which $8,000 is left. Fifteen prospective entrepreneurs were coached by Drake, McKinney, and Kathryn Jennings; Drake stated that some chose not to go into business and some chose to start a business without program funding. The program has funded three businesses: Blandford Auto, Sew Perfect, and Charley Biggs. Drake said that funding remains for one more business unless local government chooses to give more funds to the Incubator Program.
Council members were generally positive about the Incubator Program but voiced some concerns. Council member Terrell House was concerned that the program could support a business that goes in competition with an existing business, saying it could “take taxpayer money to compete against a taxpayer.” Drake replied that each prospective entrepreneur has to do market research before opening a business. House said he’d ask program coaches to impress upon entrepreneurs to use local contractors whenever possible, saying he got many complaints from constituents about Charley Biggs using out-of-town contractors. Many questions were asked by Council members about the now-closed Charley Biggs and how much funding was spent on them; Drake said the Incubator Program paid part of their rent for seven months and stopped as soon as they closed. Council member Dionne Merritt asked if a failed proprietor such as Charley Biggs could re-enter the program with a different business idea; Drake replied that while they wouldn’t automatically say no, such a proprietor would “really have to knock our socks off” with a new idea. Drake closed by saying the Incubator Program was not before the Council to ask for money, but if the Council wanted to put the program into the budget it would allow the program to continue beyond its final project.
David Gilbert and Kenneth Embry presented the 2013 city audit. Gilbert said the city audit received an unqualified opinion, “the best opinion” a city could get from a CPA. The city had a strong equity number according to Gilbert, and the city’s measure of profit went up in 2013 with increased revenues and decreased expenditures compared to 2012. Embry said it was a “really good year” for the city, and Gilbert said the city needed it after the previous four years of negative profit.
The Council went into closed session to discuss a litigation matter. When it went back into open session, the Council voted to “accept a settlement and general release agreement” regarding the litigation. The Council did not disclose the identity of the litigant or the nature of the suit.
Josh Hampton of Yellowberri gave the Council graphic options for the logo for the city website, saying preparations were progressing but the Council needed to make some decisions on the website direction. The Council approved a logo on the spot, which Hampton said would allow Yellowberri to move forward more quickly.
The Council brainstormed on where to locate the three new recycle bins and what materials to put in them. Security of the bins was a concern, with preference stated for locations with security cameras. After a wide ranging discussion, House suggested talking with some of the businesses and other entities under consideration before making a decision; the Council agreed.
In other business, the Council approved the 2nd reading of the Morgantown Utility pretreatment amendment ordinance. Regarding political signs, Mayor Linda Keown reported that the Planning and Zoning Board has just come up with revisions to the ordinance, and city officials and P&Z officials will meet on them; current candidates for office are governed by the old rules regarding signs. Keown told the Council that the new budget was in the planning stages, and she asked the Council to study on the budget before the first work session.
Story by Don Thomason, Beech Tree News