Council Told To Give Development Office More Clout

Board Fears Agency's New Status To Be Costly

December 18, 1991|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

As County Administrator Raquel Sanudo started pushing titles around on a display board in front of the County Council on Monday, she saidshe felt like TV personality Vanna White.

Sanudo was showing the council how things would look if the Office of Economic Development becomes a department reporting directly to County Executive Charles I.Ecker.

Although council members laughed when Sanudo compared herself to White -- who turns letters on the game show "Wheel of Fortune" -- Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, and C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, wanted serious answers about the kind of game the administration is playing.

Pendergrass said it feels to her like the change is "more gesture than substance." She wants assurances that the change, if enacted, will not costthe county any money.

Sanudo said there would be no additional cost but the change would bring the office "more status and more clout."

Chamber of Commerce President Earl Armiger agreed. Armiger is a member of a committee urging County Executive Charles I. Ecker and the council to make the upgrade.

The council will hold a work session on the bill tomorrow night and vote on it Jan. 6.

Armiger said it was "ludicrous" for the economic develop

ment office -- which seeks to attract new companies and support businesses already here -- not to be "on the same level playing field as other departments."

"The business community feels like it is losing ground to other counties," Armiger said.

Elevation to department status "would create the perception that economic development is a priority. So it is very important."

The reorganization also calls for the office of employment and training and the county's farmland preservation program to come under the aegis of economic development.

The development officenow has six employees.

It would pick up two others from the farmland program and 13 more from the employment and training office.

Gray, who like Pendergrass is concerned about what the change would cost, pushed Armiger to say more.

"What does it say about a department in a little house down the hill?" Gray asked.

The office is in a converted house about a block from the county office building.

"Let's first get department status and then better space," Armiger replied.

"Maybe that's the cost -- the fiscal impact" the administration says won't occur, Gray said.

"You tricked me," Armiger replied. Still, money needs to be spent for better office space, he said.

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