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What's next for the new BID Board?

Eight members will discuss that at today's meeting

Jan. 8, 2013

City Administrator Ed Henschel, one of eight new downtown Business Improvement District Board members, is looking forward to his first BID Board meeting today.

"I've already had a meeting with some of the BID appointees, and there isn't a shortage of suggestions or ideas," said Henschel, who will meet with the new board at 4 p.m. at City Hall, 201 Delafield St. "I expect a lively conversation.

"I have lots of ideas. We'll see how the board responds to them."

Among these ideas, Henschel said, is that he wants more of the BID's money it generates from downtown stakeholders to be spent on downtown events, rather than administrative expenses.

A way to do this, he said, is by not having a full-time executive director, a position that the BID has always had. Meghan Sprager was the BID's former director and resigned last fall after she accused former BID Board members of creating a "hostile work environment" during her 16-month tenure.

He said this will free up money to go into events such as Silver Bells and art crawls.

Since those events are run by different downtown organizations - Silver Bells is run by the Waukesha Downtown Business Association, and art crawls are sponsored by the West End Artists - downtown collaboration is at the top of the list for Henschel and the new BID Board.

"We have different groups doing different things without coordination," Henschel said. "We hope to improve that."

Henschel added that not having a full-time BID staff would allow the organization to put funds into advertising and higher visibility for downtown as well as improving infrastructure, the facade and sign grant program and toward what he described as the deteriorating sidewalks in downtown.

"They're pretty significant changes I'm going to propose," said Henschel, who is joined on the revamped BID Board by Alderman Vance Skinner, downtown restaurant owners Sandy Cianciolo and Jim Taylor, Natalie Walters of Waukesha State Bank, Bill Huelsman of Berg Management, downtown attorney Nick Martinez and Ron Lostetter of Carroll University. "It will be about what the BID does and how they do it."

Henschel said the City of Waukesha removed its financial support for BID from the 2013 budget but added that it will be replaced with in-kind services through the Waukesha Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department, the Department of Public Works and the city administrator's office.

According to the agenda, the first order of business at Thursday's meeting will be to elect officers. Henschel said the board will name a president, vice president, secretary and treasurer - just as it had before.

Henschel has been operating some of the BID's day-to-day operations out of his office since 11 of 13 BID Board members resigned after Sprager's messy divorce with the BID, which saw her release a scathing letter at her final BID Board meeting in September.

Henschel said the arrangement worked in the short term but wasn't a long-term solution.

As a result, he said he expects the BID Board to discuss hiring part-time staff to man the vacated BID Office, 802 N. Grand Ave.

Henschel said he also anticipates the BID Board to spend the most time at the meeting addressing the 2013 bylaws, operating plan and budget. A public comment section is also on the agenda.

He also said the board will discuss when and where future meetings will take place.

Traditionally, meetings took place at The Rotunda or BID Office, but Henschel said "for convenience," City Hall worked out better for the first meeting.

When asked whether he expects the new BID Board to address the way Sprager departed, Henschel said, "To me that's history. I'm looking forward, not backward."

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