The LutherTown Board, at its November 8, meeting, voted to “suspend monetary payments” to the Luther Economic Development Authority.
“My reason is that LEDA has not been very active right now. The town is taking that money and transferring it over to LEDA. I feel that, it’s my opinion, until they get back up, having meetings on a regular basis, or until we get more of a report, that we suspend them,” said Mayor Cecilia Taft. There was little discussion about the situation before all of the trustees voted to suspend the payments.
What is LEDA?
So far as the Luther Register has been able to find out, LEDA is an enigma.
If you “dust-off” the website for the Luther Economic Development Authority, that doesn’t appear to have been updated since 2013, you find the following welcoming statement:
The Luther Economic Development Authority welcomes you … This site is designed to provide assistance for those looking to establish business, research commercial or residential real estate, invest in business retention and expansion or check out what tourism Luther, Oklahoma has to offer.
Sounds like a great effort. However, LEDA does nothing of the sort currently. Nor does it have meetings that are posted. Nor do leaders respond to requests for minutes, financial reports, or any other questions – after several attempts during the last year.
It is concerning because LEDA is a public entity, meaning it is funded through public money. In this case lease payments for cell phone towers in the town. As such, LEDA is subject to open meetings laws, meetings and records. And transparency.
However, LEDA didn’t start out floundering. When it was founded, LEDA, like similar organizations, was touted as a helpful arm to both the town government and local commerce. LEDA was a way to spur economic development, and engage and support anyone who wanted to bring business and jobs to our town. It had great momentum, when it began.
Sandy Graber served as LEDA’s executive director in those days, and was excited about the opportunity to serve her beloved hometown and pursue a logical growth potential of building Route 66 tourism.
“When I served as Executive Director, LEDA was still in its infancy. It was taking steps in the right direction but sadly enough was never given the opportunity to grow and provide more for the community. It’s hurtful to a town when you have everything you need to be great right at your fingertips but don’t have the leadership to see past personal agendas, vendettas and the unwillingness to educate yourself to get the job done. It’s my opinion that if LEDA were left to do their job and had the right kind of support and backing to do it, Luther would no doubt prosper,” she told The Luther Register.
For now, LEDA gets no more money. Fortunately, despite inaction by LEDA, Luther seems to be growing with new businesses downtown (and an online newspaper, if you readers will allow a little self-promotion with a mission to share news of our town).
And to put a positive spin on it, perhaps the future will bring more transparency for our Town government.
In other news from the November meeting broadcast on Periscope on election night:
- After an executive session to discuss the salary of Police Chief Marcus Thurman, the Trustees voted yes to the following: “Beginning Dec. 1, 2016, Police Chief Marcus Thurman will go to an hourly employee and his time will be documented for patrol and management. In 60 days, the board will review at the Feb. board meeting to determine if he qualifies as an exempt employee.” The action relates to new Department of Labor standards involving salaries employees and overtime.
- Mike McClure was named to the Town of Luther Planning Commission.
- Approved: making Luther/Ash Road between NE 178th and Hwy 66 to be a no passing zone.
- Discussed: getting appraisals on property value on town owned land near Wild Horse Park.
- Approved: November designated as Native American Indian Heritage Month.
- Closed: Town Hall will close at 3pm on December 23, and December 30.
- No action: Mayor Taft wanted to amend the town code to pass an ordinance changing the position of clerk/treasurer from elected to appointed.
- Passed: the board voted to pay 100% of town employee’s health insurance benefits, and nothing for vision or dental, for the employee only. Previously the Town paid 75% of health insurance and pitched in on vision and dental.
In other news, the Trustees approved without discussion, $19,231.76 in claims for the month, including a $1,932.97 repair on a fire engine after algae developed in the fuel tank. They also approved a Treasurer’s Report, Fire Chief’s Report and Police Chief’s Report. The Luther Register has requested copies of those public items, as well as a copy of the “Capital Improvement Plan” related to another agenda item regarding the town budget.
During the Luther Public Works Authority meeting following the regular town meeting, the Trustees voted to cash in $60,000 in CD funds to pay loans related to the Fire Department. Trustees also hesitantly agreed to pay for classes for employee Ricky Large to obtain his water license. Before voting, trustees discussed the costs of employee education, and the chance of an employee quitting after the training, and after the $400 investment.
It was only a week after approving the the class, that the Town experienced a water main break that cut off water to the Town. Large and Jerrod Curtis worked many hours to fix.
Who does open records requests go to regarding LEDA? How much money has gone to them? Who deposits those checks and into what bank/account? No accountability is asking for trouble….