Dodge County Board Votes To Terminate Contract With ThriveED

(Juneau) A majority of Tuesday’s four-and-a-half hour Dodge County Board meeting was spent going over budget amendments including the termination of services with ThriveED.

The amendment, brought forth by Supervisor Dan Siegmann and approved by the county board, notifies ThriveED today of Dodge County’s intent to terminate its contract with them. The organization is a non-profit that works to support to local businesses and spur growth throughout Dodge and Jefferson Counties. The group’s operating budget for 2021 was $539-thousand-dollars, of which Dodge County paid $135-thousand. Over the last year several supervisors have voiced their concern over the county’s investment, noting that it has not yielded a significant return since ThriveED began operations in 2017. Supervisor Siegmann says the county can accomplish the same work in house. He says they have been patient with ThriveED and the county needs to start investing in themselves and not in a third party.

Dodge County must give ThriveED six months written notice before terminating the contract, requiring the county to pay the organization through the rest of 2021 and roughly four months into 2022. Siegmann’s amendment will re-purpose the remaining funds originally budgeted for ThriveED next year into the Land Resources and Parks Department budget to work on economic development. Department Head Bill Ehlenbeck says his staff can take this work on. Ehlenbeck did add that he could not guarantee they could do the same work cheaper than what the county had been paying ThriveED. He says the county needs to give them definable metrics and goals so they can provide the information the board wants and evaluate the Land Resources and Parks Department’s progress. Ehlenbeck did tell the county board that his department will have a Dodge County focus but they do recognize the importance or regional impact working with neighboring counties.

Supervisor Jeff Caine says it would be a mistake to move on from ThriveED. He says they have invested five years of time building relationships with local businesses. Caine adds that the organization has done a good job talking with outside industries to look at whether Dodge or Jefferson Counties are a good place to do business.

Supervisor Kira Sheahan-Malloy read aloud several quotes from business and community leaders who supported the county board’s move to terminate services with ThriveED. One such comment from a community leader, Sheahan-Malloy says, notes that they felt the county’s investment into ThriveED was spent with a detrimental effect not a positive effect.

The final vote on the amendment was 19 for and eight against.