ESJ chair sees 'complete breakdown in communication' with mayors
Larry Hachey says agency board was rebuffed in efforts to meet with oversight committee
The chair of Enterprise Saint John's board of directors says there's been a complete breakdown in communication with its oversight committee representing local municipalities and business people.
Larry Hachey was reacting to a news release from the oversight committee that was critical of Enterprise Saint John and suggested the economic development agency has not produced a "clearly defined work plan."
The committee is "unable to say with certainty at this point, whether ESJ is providing a suitable return on investments it receives," Saint John Mayor Don Darling said in the release.
Five municipalities in the region — Saint John, Quispamsis, Grand-Bay Westfield, Rothesay and St. Martins — contribute a total of $700,000 to Enterprise Saint John's budget, and the regional oversight committee includes the five mayors. The agency collects about $250,000 from private-sector partners.
Earlier sign of trouble
Before Darling sent out the news release, the Town of Quispamsis had already proposed cutting its contribution to the agency by 50 per cent.
"I've got to be honest with you, we're actually confused," Hachey said of Darling's criticism. "It paints an implication that we're somehow reluctant to provide the oversight committee with information. And it's simply not true, and it's misleading."
Hachey said his board has been attempting, without success, to get feedback from the regional oversight committee.
"We were rebuffed on our request for meetings," he said.
It's not helpful in moving our region forward.- Larry Hachey, Enterprise Saint John chair
Hachey said he reached out directly by email to each of the five mayors on Nov. 26 but received only one response, from Grand Bay-Westfield Mayor Grace Losier.
"We don't know why," said Hachey. "We're a group of volunteers who have nothing else but the best interests of the city and the region at heart.
"And we're not quite sure why this lack of communication is happening, but what we are sure of is that it's not helpful in moving our region forward."
Mayor Darling could not be reached Tuesday afternoon for a response.
Funding for half a year
Enterprise Saint John is one of three development agencies that will be guaranteed full funding only for the first six months of 2017 from the City.
They will learn about funding for the remainder of the year only after a growth plan is completed by a special council committee.
Hachey said this step, approved Monday night by Saint John council, will be hard on people working for Enterprise Saint John.
"Does it affect staff, does it affect the things that we're supposed to be doing and concentrating on? Yeah, most certainly."