The citizens of Polk County have a right to understand…

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, July 3, 2014

To the Editor, why did our county commission (the 4 Republican members) spend $21,000 on a consultant who knows very little about economic development to come up with an unworkable economic development plan?  In that process they displaced our very competent and effective economic development director, Libbie Johnson.  The citizens of Polk County have a right to understand whatever kind of logic went into this process.
First, this consultant was awarded a consulting contract to come up with an economic development plan.  No consideration was given to any other consultants——in short, a sole source, uncompetitive award was made.  There was no apparent vetting of consultants qualifications.  If there had been a background check, it would have been clear that he has no credentials in economic development.  In addition to the consulting fee ($21,000), a great deal of time was wasted in “work sessions,” which have resulted in nothing of value——a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.  All of this has been happening while the commissioners were being told by experienced business people that their plan made little or no sense.
So now we come to the unveiling of this plan to the public.  A 6th draft or iteration of the plan is made available so we can take a look.  It is a fine example of bureaucracy 101 in nine (9) pages of fine print.  We are invited to attend a Public Forum on June 23 at 5:00 p.m., and ask questions of the consultant.  We come and find that he has a lot more words and graphs mounted on the walls in the Womack building, adding even more complexity to an extremely complex plan.
When the regular BOC meeting opened Chairman Owens asked the consultant to give a brief overview of the economic development plan. He began this “overview” with more charts, graphs, and statistics projected onto the wall mounted screens, many in print too small to read, over 41 pages of power point presentation.  Finally the citizens are permitted to comment on the draft plan, or to ask questions.  They are given few clear answers.  Certainly nothing was answered regarding this consultant’s relevant experience.
Apparently, the commissioners would like for their consultant to become the new economic development director for Polk County, replacing Ms. Johnson.  I have two objections to that plan. One, he has no credentials, and two, he has no relevant experience. To be fair, this consultant is a very well educated person with a BS Degree in Trade—-Technical Education (1969) from Ferris State University. According to his resume he has a wealth of experience in training, maintenance, technical writing and other vocational education——skills we do need in this county, but he has nothing to do with economic development.
So, now isn’t it about time that we quit allowing our commissioners to mess up other peoples’ lives——Lynn Sprague, Ryan Whitson, and now Libbie Johnson?  Isn’t it time to quit wasting taxpayers’ money on overly complex and unworkable economic development plans?  Isn’t it time to focus the commissioners’ efforts on more useful activities such as interfacing with our current businesses to ensure their continuing success, and possible expansion?

– David Maxwell, Columbus

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