Sept. 20, 2005
MRPC GOES ON RECORD IN OPPOSITION TO EDA REGULATION CHANGES
Members of the Meramec Regional Planning Commission went on record in opposition
of an Economic Development Administration interim final rule, taking effect
Oct. 1, that will significantly alter and harm the long-standing and proven
practices of the nation's 320 Economic Development Districts, including Meramec
Regional Planning Commission.
The commission also voted to send letters to Sen. Kit Bond and Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, requesting their assistance in stopping the implementation of the new regulations. As written, the new rules will change the governance structure, operations and prospects of future funding assistance from EDA, which is contrary to bipartisan compromise negotiated by Congress during the reauthorization of EDA legislation.
One of the major changes, under the new regulations, would replace the majority ownership and governance control of the Economic Development District from local government officials to unnamed private sector representatives. This would diminish the direct involvement of the local elected officials and appears to establish another layer of decision-makers not elected by the taxpayers. The new law would also require some EDDs to contribute more matching funds to received planning dollars, which would put greater financial burden on local governments. The rules also change the long-term nature of EDD planning investments and limit them to three years.
One of the main uses of MRPC's planning grant is to maintain the region's Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), a regional planning document required by EDA in order or cities and counties to receive other EDA assistance, and to provide technical expertise to local government when they are developing a project or pursuing grants to fund a project.
In other business, the MRPC board:
o Heard a report from Brad Roark of Wallstreet Insurance Group about the possibility of cities and counties joining together to form their own insurance pool in order to garner better rates. Some counties and school districts across the state are doing this.
Formed in 1969, MRPC is a voluntary council of governments serving Crawford, Dent, Gasconade, Maries, Osage, Phelps, Pulaski and Washington counties and their respective cities. Officers are Chairman Gary Brown of Salem, Vice Chairman Bob Reed of Washington County, Secretary Mary Heywood of Bourbon and Treasurer Laura Cyr of Rolla.
A professional staff of 28, directed by the MRPC board, offers technical assistance and services, such as grant preparation and administration, housing assistance, transportation planning, environmental planning, ordinance codification, business loans and other services to member communities upon request.
The MRPC board will meet Oct. 13 at its office at 4 Industrial Drive in St. James. All meetings are open to the public.