LACONIA — When the Belknap County Convention meets Monday night it will be looking at a proposed $50,000 cut in the appropriation for the Belknap Economic Development Council, which was tabled by a 7-6 vote at Monday's meeting.
The move to cut the funding from $75,000 to $25,000 was initiated by Rep. Ray Howard of Alton, who serves as a member of the convention's Outside Agencies Subcommittee and whose motion to reconsider the BEDC funding had drawn majority support from the 13 members present.
Howard said he was opposed to county funding for the BEDC because he didn't think public funds should be used ''to pick winners and losers in the private sector.''
Dennis Fields, also a member of the same subcommittee, said ''we have done it (funded BEDC) since I was here and it's something we have to have.''
County Convention Chairman Frank Tilton of Laconia said he had some of the same feelings as Howard when he first joined the delegation, because he was convinced that Laconia wasn't getting the benefit it should from the organization.
''I made the same speech 10 years ago,'' said Tilton, who said that the economic development organization was started in 1992 in response to a severe recession and was originally envisioned as becoming a self-supporting group which wouldn't need public funding.
He said that since he raised his questions representatives of the organization have come before the convention and made convincing presentations on the organization's work, helping build support for continued funding.
Representative Robert Luther of Laconia said that he had experienced similar feelings to those expressed by Tilton. ''It would literally bring tears to my eyes when it drew businesses to Meredith and Belmont but not to Laconia'' said Luther, who has since supported the funding and noted that BEDC is not a profit-making organization.
It was suggested that those who have questions about what the organization has done should go and meet with them.
Representative Russ Dumais of Gilford, who was a selectmen in that town when the organization was formed, said that he recalled that it served as a source for funding for those businesses who were having trouble obtaining funding in the open market. ''It was designed to be an incubator for new companies.''
Following further discussion Rep. Michael Sylvia of Belmont moved to reduce the BEDC line to $25,000, and, when asked by Dumais about the sharp reduction said ''I'd go to zero but that would be a little extreme.''
Rep. Guy Comtois of Barnstead supported the cut, saying ''we should be getting our fiscal house in order instead of being a cheerleader for everything else coming down the pike.''
Fields said ''we've got some people who just don't want anything'' and said he supported BEDC ''because of all the good work they've done.''
Rep. Peter Spanos of Laconia moved to table the motion until the following Monday for discussion, prompting Sylvia to protest that his motion was still on the floor.
But Tilton said that a motion to table an item takes precedence over a motion on the floor and the motion to table passed by a 7-6 vote.
Representatives of the BEDC have been asked to provide a 10-15 minute presentation on the organization's need for funding at Monday night's meeting.
BEDC is currently chaired by Laconia City Councilor Henry Lipman.
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