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Public hearing on downtown Waukesha BID termination coming up

Feb. 26, 2013

The next step in terminating the downtown Business Improvement District takes place next week.

A few weeks after the downtown property owners filed a petition to disband the BID, a public hearing will take place before the Planning Commission.

The hearing is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday inside the City Hall Council Chambers, 201 Delafield St.

City Administrator Ed Henschel told the Common Council last week at its meeting there will be a 30-day period after the public hearing. During this time, any names could be added or taken off the petition.

If more than 50 percent of the property owners are still on the petition (more than 60 percent were on the original petition given to Mayor Jeff Scrima), the BID, a taxing district in downtown, will be eliminated on April 5.

The BID has been in place since 1986 and with an executive director, it was used to recruit and retain businesses, beautify the area, help market and advertise the district, organize events and be a point of contact for downtown.

But the BID has seen controversy over the last year highlighted by its former executivedirector, Meghan Sprager, resigning due to a "hostile work environment."

It was a messy divorce that saw her release a scathing nine-page document citing her grievances over her 16-month tenure that involved other board members. Board members denied any wrongdoing and despite attempting to move forward, the board crumbled as 11 of its 13 members resigned.

While the BID was inactive, the Common Council and the mayor struggled to find replacements last fall but ultimately settled on a new eight-person board.

After Henschel drew up new bylaws and an operating plan that resulted in the BID becoming more of a granting agency where other organizations would use a majority of the tax to put on events, the downtown property owners stepped in and requested that the BID be terminated.

Property owners said they felt the new plan was not a good use of the BID funds.

And despite the Common Council approving the bylaws and operating plan at a recent meeting, the BID Board, during this termination process, is not allowed to take any action for future commitments on the downtown.

As a result, the Farmers Market, a previous BID event that takes place along the Riverfront Plaza, will be put on by the leaders of the Waukesha Downtown Business Association, privately and at their own expense, Scrima said. This organization put on the popular event the final two months of last season.

While the city will pick up a few of the other BID duties, one being street sweeping, other facets of the BID will be lost.

At a Glance

What: Public hearing on BID termination

When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday

Where: City Hall Council Chambers

Fact: If 50 percent of downtown property owners are still on petition 30 days after public hearing, the BID will be terminated

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