By Debby Woodin
JOPLIN, Mo. —
An effort to establish a community improvement district as a way to promote Joplin’s downtown has been put on hold.
Trisha Patton, executive director of the Downtown Joplin Alliance, said the alliance board voted Tuesday to table the effort based on the views of downtown property and business owners.
“We still think we could get a majority of the votes we needed,” she said. “However, we decided to table it because we wanted the votes to be closer to a consensus. We didn’t want a minimum majority. We wanted a strong majority.”
The alliance began a series of meetings and discussions with downtown property and business owners in early April to provide information about the proposal and gauge support.
A CID is a defined area in which property owners pay a fee or a tax that funds projects and activities intended to increase property values and business viability.
“This is 100 percent managed by stakeholders,” who are property owners and business owners, Patton said at one April meeting. A board composed of property owners and business operators in the district makes decisions regarding the expenditure of the funds, and provides an annual report to members and the city on its funding status and activities.
Patton said a committee of alliance members has studied CID formation and uses. She said the type of district the board prefers is one funded by a special assessment on property owners. For a CID to be formed, more than half the owners of commercial parcels of property as well as owners of more than half the assessed value of property in the district must sign petitions in favor of establishing the CID.
Other cities that have launched CIDs to benefit their downtowns, such as Springfield, Columbia and Kansas City, studied the question for several years before voting, Patton said.
Asked if the decision was influenced by a letter sent out this week to downtown businesses and owners by David Humphreys, president and CEO of TAMKO Building Products Inc., encouraging opposition to the proposal, Patton said it was not.
“We heard what TAMKO said, and we respect TAMKO and David Humphreys, but our decision was made on a view based on responses we were getting from the whole district,” Patton said. She said there were some others whose responses were similar to that of Humphreys.
Humphreys’ letter said he would publicly oppose the DJA petition efforts.
He said the DJA wants the money to pay for the organization, its staff and activities because it was unsuccessful in getting funding voluntarily.
“We believe that the DJA is wrong in attempting to promote a tax on numerous property owners to benefit a small number of downtown merchants (who if they thought the DJA activities were such a good idea they would and should have funded it themselves),” the letter said.
“I’m glad they are going to do the research and due diligence they need to do,” said Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean, “because it is a big venture and the more they can do to fully educate the parties is good for the whole downtown.”
The Joplin City Council last year expressed support for the alliance to find a way to support its business interests. The council had agreed to provide $12,000 for DJA operations this year, and said it would increase that grant up to $50,000 if the alliance had expenses that would need to be paid to put in place a CID.
Funding for the alliance was an issue among some members of the council as city leaders worked to remove nonprofit groups from city funding dependence.
Mayor Pro Tem Bill Scearce last year told the DJA that it is “difficult when the council has to represent everybody (in the city) and you come in and ask for something special.”
Councilman Benjamin Rosenberg said of the proposal last year to fund the CID effort: “I’m excited you’re considering a CID. That’s the best thing you could do for your organization”
Leslie Haase, the city finance director, asked Wednesday how much the DJA has spent from the city allocation, said it has used $10,732 so far. “We pay it as they request it and provide invoices,” Haase said.
The mayor said that “if they don’t get that implemented, the city is not going to release that additional funding. That doesn’t mean they can’t come back and ask (later) and the council can vote on it.”
Asked what is the next step for the DJA, Patton said, “We believe that the Downtown Joplin Alliance has tremendous community good, so we are going to continue to work to find financial support, to continue to sustain the programs we have currently, and to expand services to make our downtown a thriving place.”
THE DOWNTOWN JOPLIN ALLIANCE is planning a fundraising gala, Piccadilly, on Oct. 29.