At the request of city officials, representatives with Owensboro Sister Cities and Regions (OSCAR) on Tuesday explained the importance of their organization, as well as local incentives that included economic development, education and international relationships.
According to President Michael Vanover, OSCAR “encourages global understanding” between the local community and others worldwide.
Vanover said OSCAR played an instrumental role in assisting government entities with the proper reception of foreign visitors and dignitaries by serving as the community’s “office of protocol, pursuing an ongoing mission to inform and educate our community concerning our areas and national cultural and business ties and their effects on our communities.”
OSCAR also initiates exchange programs and business education professional groups, assists the government and its agencies in promoting Owensboro’s cultural heritage, and encourages development and expansion of international trade relationships.
In terms of OSCAR’s budget, Vanover said he believed his organization delivered a return for local government that “far exceeds” the same dollar-for-dollar spent for most entities.
Throughout the presentation, Vanover made it clear that he felt local government and the Economic Development Corporation could not only get more out of OSCAR economically, but also that the organization needed direction on how its budget could best be spent.
“We’re at the service of the local government,” Vanover said. “We’re there to maximize the use of our line item to the best of our ability.”
While economic development through OSCAR was possible, Vanover said, it was going to take a larger commitment from local government entities. More money and more time would have to be spent to create economic growth and business opportunities.
According to Mayor Tom Watson, the City of Owensboro had “basically sponsored” OSCAR since 1996, allocating $198,000 toward the organization since then.
“We have an investment,” he said. “No question about it.”
Watson said he wasn’t accusing OSCAR of using its funds improperly, but that the taxpayers needed to know how their money was being used.
Over the years, several local leaders had traveled internationally to Sister Cities, Watson said. All of those trips were paid for with taxpayer dollars.
Vanover, however, said taxpayer dollars hadn’t been spent on the trips taken by members of OSCAR, and that the funding for those trips had been generated through the board.
Watson said he would continue to discuss the situation with city officials.
Vanover said OSCAR currently had around $27,000 in the bank.
“What I’m looking at is, ‘How do we make it grow for more money for you and more benefit for the city?’” Watson asked. “That’s the whole discussion that was brought up in the budget.”