September 15, 2023 at 5:40 a.m.

Oneida County administration committee moves OCEDC budget proposal forward


By BRIAN JOPEK
News Director

The Oneida County board’s administration committee on Monday unanimously approved a motion made by committee member Ted Cushing to forward the 2024 budget for the Oneida County Economic Development Corporation (OCEDC) for further review as part of the county’s 2024 budget process.

According to the Oneida County board’s committee structure, a department budget must first be reviewed by the committee of jurisdiction. The committee of jurisdiction for the OCEDC is the administration committee.

With the approval of Cushing’s motion, the OCEDC’s 2024 budget proposal will now be part of budget discussions in October.

“It’s weird,” Oneida County clerk Tracy Hartman told The Lakeland Times. “It just goes back to the administration committee.”

Cushing’s motion, to take up the OCEDC’s proposed 2024 budget of $96,500, with the addition of $10,300, came at the end of a lengthy discussion. 

Committee chairman Billy Fried noted that one question that has arisen involves the potential creation of a part-time position to oversee the county’s broadband project and whether it should be established within the OCEDEC or “housed in the county.”

“I think a lot of it depends on what happens with this (broadband) committee that’s being formed ... understanding if the position can be utilized within the courthouse, so to speak, and be complimentary to another job responsibility,” he said. “I think that’s part of this discussion for the county moving forward.”

Fried said internet provider Bug Tussel “was ready to roll” and there would be “a lot of stuff to process.”

“The county still needs to define the role of the committee and really define where economic development (OCEDC) ... who’s doing the heavy lifting and who’s responsible for what,” he said. “Hopefully, within the next month or 45 days, we’ll get this all figured out. I expect appointment of the committee at the end of September.”

In the meantime, everyone needs to get on the “same page”, Fried noted.

“So, once it (the broadband committee) gets appointed, there will be some things to figure out,” he said, one of those being funding for the committee, something he said he asked Oneida County board chairman Scott Holewinski about.

“Obviously, this committee is very concerned about dollars as we move into October so we can allocate the proper funds,” Fried said.

 Committee member Steven Schreier expressed frustration there hadn’t been any information regarding the addition of a position to oversee the broadband project. The 2024 budget proposal included $51,200 for a part-time position to manage the broadband program once installation by Bug Tussel is complete during the spring of 2024, he noted.

Even when it was clarified that the actual budget proposal for 2024 to address personnel was $10,300 to cover additional hours and not a position, Schreier, also frustrated with the amount of time it was taking to get the broadband committee formed, still wanted to know why personnel costs to oversee the broadband program “wasn’t proposed much earlier?”

“Why now, once the bonding seems to be set, are we talking about project positions?” he asked. “This should have been discussed a year and a half ago when we were taking this on because that could have been factored into what we’re bonding.”

Toward the end of the discussion and before he made his motion, Cushing said planning for the broadband project in Oneida County, now in its third year, has been, “like the gestation of an elephant.”

“I have no concern with somebody (overseeing) $24 million ... in the fullest, ethical way,” he said, referring to the project’s cost.

With the proposed base budget for 2024 being the same as the previous three years at $96,500, Cushing said he felt the OCEDC budget should be forwarded for consideration during the county’s 2024 budget process. 

“We’ve done this already this year,” he said. “If they can’t justify it by the time the budget hearing rolls around, maybe the position won’t take place. There’s another kick at the can when it goes to county board in November.”

Brian Jopek may be reached via email at [email protected].


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