Tourville fills in as economic developer

by Tom Coombe

Bill Henning’s retirement may lead to structural changes in the Ely area’s economic development efforts.<BR><BR>A task force has recommended that city clerk John Tourville take on Henning’s duties as director of the Ely Area Development Association on an interim basis.<BR><BR>And Tourville could become the area’s permanent economic developer under proposals being addressed by the task force, which includes both EADA representatives and members of local governments.<BR><BR>No formal proposal for meshing Tourville’s city position with the economic development job have emerged, but his contract with the city is up in August and council members may opt to include economic development duties in a new job description, or in a renamed city administrator or city manager position.<BR><BR>The move would, in effect, bring economic development management directly under the wing of the city rather than the EADA, a private organization that contracts with the city and the Ely Area Joint Powers Board to provide economic development services.<BR><BR>Together, the EADA received about $63,000 per year from the city and Joint Powers, with most of the funds budgeted this year to pay Henning and assistant director Cindy Fenske.<BR><BR>The task force has recommended that funding for the EADA remain intact during the interim period and that Fenske continue to operate the EADA office in the Community Center.<BR><BR>The EADA’s nine-member executive board discussed the options last Monday at Grand Ely Lodge and leaders said they were cautious about major changes.<BR><BR>“I don’t necessarily think change is bad, but I do think you need to hold on to things that work,” said board member Jeff Sundell.<BR><BR>Paul Forsman, chairman of the executive board and the 30-member EADA, questioned how the changes would impact the organization.<BR><BR>“Where does that leave the EADA?’ said Forsman. “To me, the EADA was set up to get community leaders together. I don’t know how you could build it into the Joint Powers structure. I’ve seen so many good things go through because of this organization.”<BR><BR>City attorney Larry Klun, also an EADA board member, said the organization “has a good thing going” but faces pressures from the city, which is looking to streamline expenses because of reductions in state aid.<BR><BR>The city provides the bulk of the funding to both the Joint Powers and the EADA, and Klun said that council members may be looking for a structure that gives them more say.<BR><BR>“There is some impression on the council that they’r enot getting direct reports, like they do from (city) department heads,” said Klun. “They see it as being a little more remote or less of a strong connection... We want to make it better but we don’t want to undermine what’s been done.”<BR><BR>And while the future of the position remains unsettled, the EADA is continuing its work with Fenske operating the office, Tourville, with the help of Sundell, handling inquiries and other duties on a volunteer basis.<BR><BR>“This is just so we don’t lose anything through the cracks,” said Joint Powers Board member Jack Willis. “The city is working other things out like what they’ll do with the city administrator position. We want to see how the pieces of the puzzle are put together, but we don’t want anything to slip through with Bill’s departure, so John and Jeff are there to maintain some continuity, and Cindy remains at the EADA office.”<BR><BR>Tourville advised the group to take several months to decide how best to fill the job.<BR><BR>“Take some time to figure out where you want to go with this,” he said.<BR><BR>Henning’s position with the EADA was part-time - 18 hours per week. He was compensated $25,896 per year, but the job had no insurance benefits.