No decision yet on Tourville, EADA

by Nick Wognum

The divide over whether or not the current city clerk should also be hired as the area economic director was clear on Tuesday night.<BR><BR>With Clerk John Tourville seated in the middle, council members Mark Zupec and Mike Hillman battled Mayor Frank Salerno and Paul Kess. <BR><BR>Jerome Debeltz and Butch Pecha largely sat out the debate and Dan Przybylski was absent from the meeting.<BR><BR>After some heated exchanges and several legal opinions, the next step was laid out: a meeting with the Ely Area Development Association to discuss the issue. <BR><BR>Also looming ahead is a review of Tourville’s job performance which has yet to be completed and could further complicate the issue.<BR><BR>There were definitely complications over how economic development efforts were going to be run in the city of Ely. <BR><BR>Kess, as the city’s representative to the non-profit Ely Area Development Association, explained the organization has been waiting for the council to make a decision, specifically on funding.<BR><BR>A letter was sent to the city from the EADA stating it was no longer interested in a possible job-share opportunity with the city’s clerk position.<BR><BR>City Attorney Larry Klun said he understood that the EADA was now looking at the new Tech Prep Center being put forward by area state colleges through a program known as True North. <BR><BR>The Tech Prep Center will be located in the Queen City Federal Building in space formerly held by Ely Realty which is moving up to the Gossip Bench building.<BR><BR>“They are looking at having a person in that facility and looking at the possibility of job sharing that person with the True North initiative,” said Klun. “This fits in with the John Powers study on economic development.”<BR><BR>Tourville said True North was not a business recruitment program but one to educate. <BR><BR>Kess said the idea of True North is to give businesses an opportunity to train with the latest in technology. He said other True North Centers work with economic development efforts in Grand Rapids and Mt. Iron.<BR><BR>“I’m a little sorry to see EADA do this without inviting the council to discuss it,” said Zupec. <BR><BR>He distributed a legal opinion from the League of Minnesota Cities that said the council is not bound by the charter, as Klun has maintained, to require the clerk to work only for the city during business hours. <BR><BR>“The EADA could pay the city for my time,” said Tourville.<BR><BR>Zupec made a motion to have Tourville handle economic development for a six month trial basis. His motion was immediately seconded by Hillman. <BR><BR>Kess pointed out that whoever has been the clerk in the past has worked on economic development and that the EADA wants its own coordinator.<BR><BR>“And as a matter of course, the council can’t appoint to the EADA,” said Kess.<BR><BR>Hillman said the call came down to “who’s going to run the show.” <BR><BR>Salerno questioned how many hours Tourville would be doing city business as clerk versus working for the EADA.<BR><BR>“That’s a discussion between the council and the EADA,” said Tour-ville.<BR><BR>“This has gotten far too political,” said Salerno, “which is very unfortunate for the council and the community.”<BR><BR>“Why do we want to force our will on the EADA?” asked Kess.<BR><BR>The EADA is made up of a volunteer 30 member board which has an executive board to handle day-to-day affairs. <BR><BR>Bill Henning had served as the EADA director until retiring recently. Cindy Fenske is still employed by the EADA in the office located in the Community Center.<BR><BR>EADA funding comes from the city and the Ely Area Joint Powers Board, with monies coming from the city, school district, Town of Morse and city of Winton.<BR><BR>Hillman and Zupec both cited the EADA decision to move on as a reason for the city to go in a separate direction.<BR><BR>“The EADA did that without a by-your-leave,” said Hillman.<BR><BR>Klun said that even if the council wanted to proceed with employing Tourville through the EADA, it would still require a charter change.<BR><BR>Tourville is also on a short list for a position in the city of Virginia.<BR><BR>Klun asked for time to review the legal opinion and meet with Zupec on the issue.<BR><BR>“Our task is to do everything we can for economic development but the first responsibility of John Tour-ville is city clerk,” said Salerno.<BR><BR>While no date was set to meet with the EADA, the council will be reviewing Tourville’s performance evaluation prior to its regular meeting on Nov. 4. <BR><BR>