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Spreading out the BID's duties downtown

Farmers Market will be run by WDBA

Feb. 19, 2013

After the downtown property owners turned over a petition to have the Business Improvement District disbanded a couple weeks ago, City Administrator Ed Henschel said the move has "the potential of very negative impacts on the downtown."

"Hopefully events and activities will be picked up and administered by other local organizations," Henschel said. "Time will tell."

A letter from Community Development Director Steve Crandell was sent out to BID property owners Feb. 12 on what would be impacted by not having the BID.

Among the items on the chopping block was the Farmers Market, a popular weekly event along the Fox River in the Riverfront Plaza between Broadway and Barstow, that saw more than 100 vendors last year, a record amount.

However, Mayor Jeff Scrima said three days later that the Farmers Market will go on as scheduled thanks to theWaukesha Downtown Business Association. Scrima said the organization will run it privately and at its own expense.

The WDBA, run by a group of downtown business owners, ran the Farmers Market the last two months of the 2012 season when the BID was inactive after the resignations of its executive director and a majority of its board members. The Farmers Market last year was from 8 a.m. to noon every Saturday from the beginning of May to the end of October.

The Carl Zach Cycling Classic that runs through downtown June 23 will also still take place, Scrima said. The BID Board made a commitment to this event before the petition was filed. But because the BID Board cannot conduct any business, Crandell's memo said the organization will not advertise the event.

Other events sponsored by the BID will not occur, Crandell's memo said, unless taken over by other organizations at their expense.

As far as keeping the downtown clean and beautified, which the BID was responsible for, Scrima said the City's Public Works Department will sweep the streets. But he added that downtown property owners will be responsible for sweeping their own sidewalks.

The planter barrels, the mayor said on Friday, will be maintained by the Spring City Garden Club and volunteers and that the facade and sign grants will continue but will now be administered by the city's Community Development Department.

Advertising and promotional material for the downtown will not be produced and the BID's website and calendar of events will not be maintained.

"Property and business owners will be responsible for their own advertising, website promotion and marketing - just as they are in the rest of the city," Scrima said.

But the promotion/marketing of vacant business space in downtown, an area many business owners said was one of the BID's biggest strengths, will not be done.

Moreover, the office, previously staffed at 802 N. Grand Ave., will not be maintained as a point of contact anymore.

"As can be seen from the above list, a great deal of support has been provided to the downtown businesses and property owners in the past," the memo said.

In the memo, it said the board is prohibited from undertaking any further obligations of the district.

"This means that a number of the programs and services performed by the BID in support of the downtown will not be implemented by it until the due process procedure is completed," the memo said.

The next step in the termination process of the BID takes place at 6:30 p.m. March 6 with a public hearing before the Plan Commission at City Hall.

According to state statute, when 30 days have passed from the public hearing, if 50 percent of the assessed property owners are still on the petition, the BID will be terminated.

The BID has been a taxing district in downtown Waukesha since 1986. The organization was created to recruit and retain businesses to downtown through marketing, advertising and events as well as to beautify the area.

However, downtown property owners were dissatisfied with the new bylaws and operating plan that the new BID Board was proposing where a majority of the tax would be put toward grants for other organizations to run events in downtown Waukesha.

Even so, Scrima is optimistic about the future of downtown.

"Regardless of the outcome of the BID taxing district, our downtown will continue to have fun and family-friendly community front porch events," Scrima said.

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