By MAX FILBY
STAFF WRITER
Findlay City Council on Tuesday appropriated $30,000 for the “Raise The Bar” workforce organization, despite a debate over funding nonprofits that has been going on for two years.
The contribution, though, is contingent on City Council getting a seat on the board of Raise The Bar. Mayor Lydia Mihalik was previously the only person on the board who represents city government.
Council voted 7-3 Tuesday night to contribute money to the organization this year. At-Large Councilman Jeff Wobser, 1st Ward Councilwoman Holly Frische and 6th Ward Councilman Jim Niemeyer voted against the donation.
“I’m just saying it’s not a good use of taxpayer dollars,” Wobser said.
While Wobser said he is against funding nonprofit groups, he supports the mission of Raise The Bar, created to tailor future workers for local companies.
Wobser and Frische have previously questioned the city’s contributions to nonprofits, such as money that was appropriated to the Miracle Park project earlier this year.
Frische began arguing against the city funding nonprofits in 2014, when council considered distributing Findlay’s portion of hotel/motel tax revenue to nonprofits.
On Tuesday, Wobser expressed a fear that if council contributed to Raise The Bar, other groups may come forward seeking money.
“We’re going to have a hard time fending off everybody else,” Wobser said.
Frische brought up remarks made by fellow council members years ago, when some suggested that standards should be set to establish which nonprofits would qualify for hotel/motel tax funding.
Frische suggested Tuesday that the city make some sort of “in-kind” donation to the workforce initiative instead of offering up cash from its general fund.
“I see that $30,000 a year could be better used in our Police Department to combat the heroin problem,” Frische said. Frische has often pushed for increased staffing in the fire and police forces and has also suggested that money spent on other projects be put toward safety services instead.
Mayor Mihalik said the city is adding new officers and firefighters regularly. She said three firefighters are going through training now.
Mihalik, who is a Raise The Bar board member, said she was happy council approved the expenditure. Of five groups that are each providing $30,000 to the workforce organization, the city was the last to contribute.
“I’m excited that council has taken an interest in making this happen,” Mihalik said.
Tony Iriti, director of Findlay-Hancock County Economic Development, also fielded questions from council members during Tuesday’s meeting.
Niemeyer asked Iriti what the organization would do to help small business owners. Niemeyer used to own the Dairy Queen on Western Avenue before it closed.
Iriti said Raise The Bar would have a big focus on filling jobs at locally-owned businesses. He said officials have even discussed the possibility of creating a school that would help train prospective waiters and bartenders for local restaurants.
“Contrary to what people think, this has nothing to do with the Marathons and Coopers,” Iriti said.
Approval of money for the workforce nonprofit comes just weeks before council may be asked to continue funding another nonprofit — the Arts Partnership of Greater Hancock County.
Findlay officials previously agreed to provide the partnership with 10 percent of the city’s hotel/motel tax revenue, or about $40,000 a year, through 2016. Mihalik expects the discussion will pick back up if the partnership seeks continued support from the city.
“What you have is obviously just a difference of opinion,” Mihalik said after the meeting.
Separately Tuesday, council gave a second reading to an ordinance that would ban the growing, processing and sale of medical marijuana in the city indefinitely.
Fourth Ward Councilman Tom Klein suggested amending the ordinance so it would expire after a certain amount of time, but Law Director Don Rasmussen urged council not to do that.
If council members eventually feel satisfied by the medical marijuana rules and regulations put in place by the state, they can simply repeal the ordinance, Rasmussen said.
The ban was proposed by Mihalik earlier this month to block medical pot operations at least until the state establishes regulations, which may not come until 2018.
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