December 8, 2020

Mallory Herrmann
Staff Reporter

The city council is once again trying to find a way to implement success metrics in five public service agreements. In the meantime, they have granted another extension of funding through June 30, the end of the fiscal year.

The PSAs are part of the city’s efforts to promote economic development, particularly jobs growth. But the partnerships have come into question in the past for not having specific metrics or benchmarks in place to determine their effectiveness.

Simultaneously, the city’s business and industry fund (also known as the hotel/motel tax) is seeing a dwindling reserve in the wake of the pandemic. The revenues generated by that tax are used, in part, to fund the agreements. The city does not expect to have enough funding this fiscal year to cover the full $613,000 allocated for the PSAs – and there is uncertainty about the future.

City staff recommended funding each of the agreements at approximately 74% of the initial allocation amounts, for a total of about $450,000.

The city’s agreements with Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce, Inc.; Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street; Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council; Velocity Lee’s Summit, Inc.; and Community Marketing were set to expire Dec. 31. That extension (from the original June 20 expiration) was approved by the council in May of this year after a discussion about how to revise the agreements to include metrics that would help keep the organizations more accountable to the city.

“At this point, I just really don’t favor distributing any more money until we get signed new agreements by all five of these entities,” Councilmember Bob Johnson said.

Councilmember Phyllis Edson agreed: “I don’t know why we’re still talking about this without new agreements,” she said. “Every time we talk about these PSAs, we talk about how there’s no benchmarks in the agreements and no accountability.”

Mayor Bill Baird suggested that instead of revising the individual agreements, a single PSA be used to cover the work provided by all five organizations. He said it would force them to work together as one group and could decrease the amount of duplicate work being done.

“[These organizations] provide great value, but the thing is, we want to see a better return for our dollar,” Baird said. “I’d like to see ‘em all one team: Team Lee’s Summit”

Councilmember Andrew Felker cautioned against deciding not to fund the PSAs entirely given the other challenges created by the pandemic and the need for their services.

“Each of these PSAs provides value to the community – there’s no doubt about it,” Felker said.

After a lengthy discussion, Councilmember Trish Carlyle proposed an amendment that would require the organizations to submit draft language for new agreements by April 1, in addition to approving the funding (at the lower rate, per city staff’s recommendation) with the extension of the contracts through the end of June.

The amended motion to approve funding passed with a 5–4 vote. Mayor Bill Baird and Councilmembers Johnson, Edson and Fred DeMoro voted against.

All councilmembers were present via teleconference for the Dec. 1 meeting.