Observer Corps Report February 2019
Meetings: 2d Tuesdays, 8:30 a.m., Selectmen's Room Organized as 501C3, est. 1981
Falmouth EDIC Basis and Mission Statement: The Falmouth Economic Development & Industrial Corporation (EDIC) is the Town of Falmouth's primary agency responsible for creating and developing increased economic opportunities for both the present and the future.
According to the website, its mission (approved March, 2015) reads: The mission of the EDIC is to increase business and industrial investment; expand opportunities to own, manage, and operate commercial and industrial enterprises; provide funding assistance; and increase job opportunities in the Town of Falmouth.
In December, 2018, the mission was restated, To attract, advocate and support economic vitality and seek to constantly improve the business climate in Falmouth.
Inside this restatement is a subtle change of direction that has occurred over the past year, namely to focus more narrowly on projects and activities that produce revenue for the EDIC, and step aside from those that may appear interesting, but don't produce a direct payoff for EDIC. There have been past divisions over the importance of affordable housing as an economic asset, and it will be interesting to see how that emphasis rises or declines over the next five years.
It is important to remember that EDIC is, technically, a corporation and not a committee. In most respects it acts like a committee. However, in handling money, and probably in conforming to open meeting laws, there are some significant differences.
Initially created to manage the Technology Park, EDIC has sought to adapt to changing needs and conditions. In the past year it has been active in these areas:
The Technology Park Development Agreement (the DA) between the Cape Cod Commission and the EDIC was set to expire a year ago, but has received a 3-year extension. However, conditions have changed since the DA was created in 1974, so fundamental changes are in order, and will require research, negotiation, and thoughtful prediction of future needs. There is a movement to bring Tech Park tenants and owners to the table in this process. Relative to the complexity of the project, the extension is a short one.
Falmouth Station structural renovation was completed, and extended with revitalization as a community gathering place, supported with encouragement of The Station Café; scheduling of cultural events; development of a crossing path between the Station and the nearly adjacent bike path; and supporting formation of Friends of the Falmouth Station to continue and expand these efforts. Though not yet fully realized, the Station costs and income are expected to balance one another over time.
Landfill Solar Development is bringing the town income from the first four megawatts of installed capacity. Another two megawatts of capacity await integration into the Eversource grid, pending 1) EDIC's place in the queue of applicants to supply power; and 2) negotiations between Eversource and the town to agree upon costs of upgrading the Eversource grid's capacity to accept more power than currently feasible. EDIC also receives a percentage of the Eversource payments, and that revenue stream is giving EDIC a different outlook on its mission and operation.
Real Estate Development has shrunk to the point that the Real Estate Committee was recently abolished. However, EDIC does own two parcels: one small plot in the Tech Park, and the wooded area immediately south of the Station parking area. Potential uses are under discussion for both, along with the potential lease revenues they might generate.
EDIC has actively supported OpenCape ultra highspeed internet, including financial vehicles to allow Main Street businesses to connect to the service, using $200K of revolving state development money to use as interest free loans, and an $80K grant, managed by EDIC, to further subsidize connection expenses.
Efforts are underway toward creating coworking space, most likely at Tech Park or the parcel next to the Station. A grant application was unsuccessful, but new avenues are being pursued, especially grant funding for a feasibility study. A probable choice lies ahead whether to focus such a space on remote work facilities, or maker space with equipment.
EDIC organized loan funding for 2 generators at two small public housing properties, to power warming spaces for senior citizens during power outages.
An upgraded website has been a major expenditure, but much of the text content remains outdated.
Accomplishing so much places heavy demands upon the seven volunteer members. Nowhere on the website is there any mention of Lynne Broderick, or the position she occupies. It is inferred from minutes that she is "Administrator." Broderick functions, in fact, very actively in carrying out the decisions and responsibilities of the EDIC, especially the Falmouth Station. There is no contact information for her on the website. For well over a year there has been periodic discussion of creating an "Executive Director", and the decision to do so occurred at a special meeting in early December, 2018. The job description, salary, benefits, and hiring process are now under consideration, but as yet there are no public records about them.
New members this year are Paul Burke, who succeeded Christopher Langlais as Treasurer; and Patti Haney, who very recently succeeded Jim Fox. Of the other members, former chairman Dave Galasso; clerk Chris Simmler; and vice chair, Selectman Susan Moran are especially hard working and well informed. Chris Land joined the EDIC at the December 13, 2016 meeting. Of the 26 meetings held since then, he has missed 9. He became Chair as of January, 2018.
OPEN MEETING CONSIDERATIONS
Again, it is important to remember that EDIC is a corporation, and not a town committee.
The Committee Policy page of the EDIC website makes no mention of open meeting regulations. The EDIC actually functions with multiple committees and subcommittees, including an Executive Committee. The website makes no mention of such an Executive Committee, but November and December meetings report having attorney Laura Moynihan, who consults on many EDIC matters, edit the bylaws to reflect a 3-person Executive Committee comprised of the Chair, Vice Chair, and Treasurer; to check open meeting laws to see if it is possible to maintain an Executive Committee; and to inquire into rules regarding making decisions by said committee in between the public board meetings. The EDIC website is a long way from providing current and accurate information about this and other matters.
Creating an Executive Director and putting many decisions into the hands of a 3-person Executive Committee will tighten EDIC's operations. Furthermore, steps have been taken to screen presentations from outside organizations; and to increase collaboration with other town regulatory bodies to simplify and clarify business development review processes "in a consistently objective, demarcated, public and transparent manner." Part of those changes could well increase adherence to open meeting regulations, because operations will be more formalized. On the other hand, the changes will create something of a fence between the executive actors, and the volunteer and citizen participation that Falmouth holds so dear. EDIC is moving in the direction of trading one kind of transparency for another.
Carol B. Chittenden, LWVF Observer February 2019