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Massena Town Council agrees to fund BDC $60,000 for 2013, 2014


MASSENA - The Massena Town Council has agreed to fund its economic development effort at $60,000 annually for 2013 and 2014, double what it provided for the last two years.

Village and town officials have been discussing the Business Development Corporation for a Greater Massena’s future following the resignation of Executive Director Jason A. Clark. The town and village each currently provide $30,000 to the jointly funded BDC. But the BDC’s annual budget is approximately $130,000, and if current spending patterns continue, the organization could run out of reserves by 2014.

Last week, the village, town and BDC boards held a joint meeting about the entity. The BDC needs to know whether it should begin the search for a new executive director, and wanted assurances of adequate funding before doing so, according to Councilman John F. Macaulay.

The town council voted 3-1, with Mr. Macaulay dissenting and Councilman Robert J. Cunningham absent, to commit to $60,000 for the next two years, and the village board may hold the same vote at their Tuesday meeting.

“The reason it’s $60,000 is because their fund balance is declining so quickly,” Mr. Macaulay said.

The $60,000 equals the town funding provided to the BDC in 2010, but is double what the town funded in 2011 and 2012. Officials said the other option was to “pull the plug” on the agency, because it can’t last much longer without that funding. If the village board votes against the $60,000 on Tuesday, everyone will have to go back to the drawing board, town officials said.

BDC board member Larry Ralston, in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting, said established expectations for the economic development agency would accompany the financial commitment from the village and town. Mr. Ralston said those expectations have not yet been finalized.

“There would be a lot more accountability as far as expectations,” Mr. Ralston said.

The vote took place after Mr. Macaulay and Councilman Charles A. Raiti debated the BDC’s necessity. Mr. Raiti said he had seen a lot of positive momentum on the BDC during the last 18 months and didn’t want to risk losing that by failing to provide adequate funding. The board of directors pushed Mr. Clark hard during the last year and a half to produce results for Massena, he said.

“We need someone who is going to push our community,” Mr. Raiti said. “If we don’t have someone in Massena pushing these projects, how are we going to help ourselves?”

But the town had relied on gaming compact monies in the past to fund the BDC and can’t do so anymore, Mr. Macaulay said. A property tax increase may have to fund the agency going forward, and he was hesitant to commit to such an expense because many town residents are on fixed incomes.

“We’re caught between a rock and a hard place,” Mr. Macaulay said.

He also questioned the agency’s effectiveness.

“We haven’t seen a lot come out of our investment,” he said. “Not one business has come in as a result of them.”

“We don’t have the money for anything extra right now, none,” he added. “I haven’t said to get rid of the BDC ... I’m not saying we go from 60 (thousand) to zero. I’m just not sure we can go from 30 to 60.”

Mr. Ralston urged the town board to fund the agency. The board could carry the rail spur, downtown revitalization and marketing initiatives in the short-term, but adequate funding was needed in the long term to ensure the projects success.

“There are major projects going on that you can’t simply turn your backs on,” Mr. Ralston said.

The council will decide at future meetings and budget workshops how it will fund the $60,000 moving forward. Supervisor Joseph D. Gray will release his 2013 spending proposal on Sept. 30.

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