Mayor Elam cuts funding for JECDB, jeopardizes state grants

What the heck is a JECDB and why does it matter?

JECDB stands for Joint Economic Community Development Board. For the obsessive, the Wilson County JECDB has its own web site – intended primarily to market sites in Wilson County to businesses looking to relocate and expand, apparently.

In 1998 the state legislature passed a law requiring every county to have one, and requiring every city to help fund it.

The Wilson County JECDB is funded by Wilson County, Lebanon, Mt. Juliet, and Watertown – based on a formula that apportions the budget based on population. Because Mt. Juliet’s population has almost caught up with Lebanon’s, Mt. Juliet’s share of the JECDB budget is almost as much as Lebanon’s.

Mayor Elam is unhappy with the JECDB because Lebanon has 3 board members and Mt. Juliet and Watertown have 2 each.

The Mayor has been unsuccessful in getting more representation for Mt. Juliet, so at the June 11th Mt. Juliet City Commission meeting, she amended the budget to cut Mt. Juliet’s contribution to the JECDB. She said that if Mt. Juliet isn’t going to have any more representation than Watertown on the board, then Mt. Juliet shouldn’t have to pay any more money than Watertown does.

Might not be a bad idea, but the Mayor overlooked two problems with her attempt to play high-stakes chicken with the county. One: state law. Two: the contract with the county.

Here’s the state attorney general’s opinion that says that if a City doesn’t participate in funding the JECDB, they’re not eligible for ANY state grants. Hmm… that would be state grants for things like sidewalks, greenways, roads, and industrial development. Nope, none of that needed in Mt. Juliet.

There’s also the little matter of the contract with the county. Mt. Juliet signed it and ratified it when the JECDB was set up. If the county chooses to sue (hmm.. let’s see, that would be in a Wilson County court), the odds are very high that the county would win. Mt. Juliet might even have to pay the county’s attorney fees.

Doesn’t seem real smart. Of course, the Mayor has demonstrated a number of times that she doesn’t feel obligated to honor a contract. But isn’t there a course in law school called “contracts?” Or was she out sick that day?

Speaking of law school, are you wondering whether City Attorney Paula Flowers warned the Mayor of the possible consequences of thumbing her nose at the state and the county? Nope. Rumor has it she’s still “researching” the issue.

But City Planner Bobby Franklin did. Here’s the clip:

Rumor has it now that the Mayor is going to beat a hasty retreat at the next City Commission meeting and restore funding for the JECDB. Should be fun to watch.

But don’t expect an apology. The Mayor, apparently, doesn’t issue those either.

-Publius

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