In recent months, Catoosa County residents have voiced a desire for tangible evidence of where county money goes and that contracted services are not being duplicated.

Prior to Dec. 17 — when county commissioners unanimously voted in favor of such a policy — the county did not have a formal agreement that stipulated how outside agencies could request money or be held accountable for meeting their contractual objectives.

County Manager Alicia Vaughn, Chief Financial Officer Carol Roberts and County Attorney Chad Young worked on the resolution, which outlines the terms, conditions and circumstances for funding requests from outside agencies.

This will establish clear lines to avoid duplicating services, said Young.

Residents have been critical of the county's allocation of funds to the Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce, the county's Economic Development Authority and the Northwest Georgia Joint Development Authority, all of which share a similar mission.

For fiscal year 2020, the county allocated $40,000 to the Chamber, $272,963 to the EDA and $95,913 to the JDA, all with goals to develop the county's economy.

Tunnel Hill resident Nick Ware said during the public comment section of the Dec. 17 meeting that residents are concerned that all this money being put into economic development is not providing tangible results. Ware, who often signs up to speak at commission meetings, pulled past Catoosa County budgets and noted that the EDA's budget has increased by 157% in the past five years.

In 2016, commissioners debated whether the county's involvement with the broader JDA had yielded enough results, according to a Times Free Press article from that time. Commissioners ultimately blamed a lack of land to develop rather than the JDA, which also covers Chattooga, Dade and Walker counties.

With Catoosa's hiring of EDA Director Keith Barclift this summer, the county is looking to take a more aggressive approach to economic development, officials said at the time. However, residents have been critical of his salary, which is about $25,000 more than his predecessor's.

Barclift noted in an interview in November that prior to his hiring, the EDA director position was an entry-level position. Barclift came to the county after having served as the JDA's vice president for nine years.

Upon his hiring, Barclift said he hopes to work with the Chamber of Commerce to create a detailed strategic plan that ties into both groups' overall goals and missions.

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