CLEAR LAKE SHORES

Clear Lake Shores needs a new city administrator, and it also needs a professional who could lead the city’s economic development corporation, city council members said Tuesday.

The consensus is to solve both problems by hiring one city employee who would handle both the administrative duties and economic development tasks, council members said.

Although on Tuesday the city council only discussed the idea of a paid economic development professional on staff without taking any formal action, members did vote on related items.

After an executive session, the council members voted to terminate the employment of City Administrator George Jones, a man they also praised for his work.

Mayor Michael McNamara would not comment on the reasons why Jones was let go but added he would be able to say more in the near future.

Other council members alluded that Jones had been ill for some time and that McNamara had been doing much of his job since November.

Councilman Bryan Hoerner introduced a discussion about dissolving the city’s economic development corporation. The corporation oversees the $220,000 to $230,000 the city gets each year from a quarter-cent sales tax dedicated to economic development projects.

The corporation has a big budget and a big responsibility, but all the members are volunteers, Hoerner said.

“The EDC has been struggling to find projects to do,” Hoerner said. “They never got any traction, never got anywhere.”

McNamara disagreed, pointing out several beautification projects and business incentive programs. He did agree, however, that a paid city employee should guide the corporation.

The corporation lacks leadership, Mayor Pro Tem Amanda Fenwick said.

“They need somebody to push them,” Fenwick said.

The council agreed that it would make sense to have a city position with half the responsibilities of a city administrator and half of an economic development professional.

“What we have available here is small,” McNamara said. “It’s hard to market that.”

The council already negotiates with businesses and talks about what it would take to attract a good one. At Tuesday’s meeting, the council spent part of its executive session discussing just such a potential business, but during the public part of the meeting, members did not discuss what it was and took no action.

Dissolving the economic development corporation could lead to a loss of income for the city that has no property taxes.

Clear Lake Shores has a population of 1,200 residents who pay no property taxes. The city relies on sales taxes to operate.

If a ballot gave voters the option of dissolving the corporation and the quarter-cent sales tax but adding another quarter-cent sales tax not tied to a specific purpose, it would probably fail, Hoerner said.

Professional leadership would be helpful, corporation member Charles Scoville said. At the same time, the corporation’s role is setting the stage to make the city attractive in appearance and in its incentive programs.

The council on Tuesday approved the corporation spending $75,000 for its facade program to improve the exterior appearance of businesses. A business that makes facade improvements can get 50 percent of the expense reimbursed up to $25,000. One business has already applied, city staff said.

Communication between the city council and the corporation has been another problem, McNamara said. He suggested that the two bodies will have joint workshops in the future.

Clear Lake Shores hasn’t started looking at resumes for a new city administrator yet, McNamara said, but a future city administrator will likely take on economic development responsibilities.

“It’s the best solution,” McNamara said.

Valerie Wells: 409-683-5246; valerie.wells@galvnews.com

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