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CANNELTON - With a moment of silence, Cannelton Common Council members opted Monday to withdraw from the Perry County Development Corp.
"I think Cannelton just took a step backward," Mayor Smokey Graves said after the meeting. "I think it's an absolute shame. I don't have an answer as to why that decision was made. There were things being worked up."
The city's leaders had for years declined to join the organization, until last year, when Graves became mayor and Adam Goffinet joined the council.
"By renewing our involvement in the Perry County Development Corporation, Cannelton can once again work to entice businesses into our community," Goffinet wrote in response to a News questionnaire as he campaigned for the office. "The city needs to do a better job of advertising the assets that we possess to help encourage investment in our community."
PCDC President and Chief Executive Officer Chris Kinnett attended Monday's meeting, and described opportunities he said should be exploited. The city should take advantage of property in several areas, among them the former animal-shelter site on Sycamore Road, land along River Road and near the locks and dam and lots at the mouth of the Ohio River bridge that could support businesses, he noted.
While the city has places where growth is possible, "ensuring we keep what we have" is critical, he said. "We made some calls when Schwab Safe was being sold, and we told SentrySafe we wanted to support their staying here. With the economy the way it is, keeping what you have is important."
Both Graves and Goffinet pushed for PCDC membership last April, following another of Kinnett's presentations that led to support from all but Councilman John Young III. Graves said he's been working with Kinnett since then.
A site at the intersection of Indiana 66 and Indiana 237 has been advertised on the PCDC's Web site at www.pickperry.com, Kinnett said Monday, and he has been advising area residents about opportunities available to them.
"I need to sit down with the council and ask what is your vision for what the city should be?' he added, explaining his organization can provide tools such as assessments. They would examine resources such as the city's proximity to Holiday World and events such as local fishing tournaments and turkey-federation hunts, for which additional lodging is needed, he said.
Graves said membership in the PCDC helped ensure Schwab Safe stayed here when "some East Coast interests were looking at moving it."
Goffinet offered a motion to renew the city's membership, which expired in December. When Graves called for a second to the motion, the remaining council members' silence sealed its death.
"We have more pressing issues that that money could be used for," Councilwoman Lynn Fulkerson said Tuesday about why she didn't second the motion. Payments to PCDC are calculated as a percentage of a city's economic development income tax. That amounted to approximately $20,000 last year and would have been a little lower this year for Cannelton.
The city is still working to obtain funding to upgrade its sewer lines, and learned earlier in the evening it may have to provide more matching funds than originally thought. Fulkerson cited that possibility as contributing to her decision.
And, PCDC "is for Perry County," she said. "I'm working for Cannelton."
"I'm going to continue to do what I can do to market the city of Cannelton," Graves said after the meeting. "Right now, we don't have a marketing arm. It just went out the door."