The Downtown Business Improvement District Board voted to lower its annual asking cost from the city for the first two years at its meeting Tuesday.
Initially, BID came before the Fremont City Council and asked for a new five-year extension with $66,000 in funding each year from a tax levy on downtown properties.
The plan’s first and second readings were approved by the council, which voted to continue the final reading at its meeting on Nov. 9.
But with the new plan, BID would only receive $48,000, which is what its current budget is at, for the first two years. In 2023, it would then ask for $66,000 each year for the next five years.
Chairman Tom Coday said the change would give BID $1 million to work with on a substantial project over a five-year period instead of just $10,000 in capital improvements and $8,000 in future projects.
“You can’t do much with that, and that’s why we have an association with MainStreet (of Fremont) so they can write the grants to take these dollars and substantially increase the amount that we can work with,” he said.
Additionally, board member Vince O’Connor said the first year of the two years would be spent reviewing the two-tier system of internal and external to develop a better plan for the future.
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Coday said the change came at the suggestion of Mayor Joey Spellerberg and said a majority of the councilmembers supported it, as it showed that those who protested the increase were listened to.
Spellerberg said he believed BID should make it a goal to be project-based moving forward.
“We all know that $48,000 or $66,000 a year, we’re going to do some nice things for the downtown,” he said. “But is that really going to have the impact that a big project would bring to the downtown?”
Having discussed the matter with the council, Spellerberg said he wanted all sides to come together for a compromise that would benefit the entire downtown.
“I want it to be project-based. I want as much money as we can get toward a project and really do something where there’s a cohesion down here where we have private dollars that want to invest in something in the downtown and make a difference,” he said.
Board member Richard Register disagreed with the new plan, and likened BID’s budget and project-planning to adding money to a cookie jar.
“You don’t choose where you’re going on vacation before you figure out how much is in the cookie jar,” he said. “We have to continue to put the money in.”
Register said he also agreed with BID’s plan to have a meeting on Thursday with businesses who submitted protests against the board at the city council’s meeting last week.
Many of the protests argued that BID didn’t have enough of an impact on the downtown with its projects, and if it did, businesses on the fringes of downtown were unable to feel it.
“I want to hear what the protest is,” Register said. “Because it might have something we’re not aware of, and you always need to continue to listen because if you don’t listen, you’re a fool and you’ll go the wrong way.”
Ultimately, Register thought lowering BID’s budget would undo its mission and encouraged the board to act more.
“If you start with the projects and it dies on that, we don’t get anywhere,” he said. “If you don’t put the money in, you don’t get anywhere.”
Board member Ginger Rosenthal also encouraged the board to talk to businesses that were on the fringes of downtown and ask them what sort of changes would make the biggest impact.
“We actually have a working plan right now,” O’Connor said. “Is it perfect? Obviously not. And that’s why we’re trying to get input and we make changes.”
Board member JJ Bixby made a motion to roll back the proposal to $48,000 for the next two years, which would be spent working on a five-year plan to increase to $66,000, and continue to fund half of MainStreet Executive Director Amy Vermeline’s position using dollars from the maintenance fund.
The motion was approved 5-1 by the board, with Register voting against.
The board also voted to spend up to $9,000 on purchasing flowers for the hanging pots downtown.
From last year’s cost of $16,000, Coday said the price will increase anywhere from $350 to $750 this year. BID and MainStreet will pay for half of the flowers.
Discussion was also held on adding more flowers to areas such as the Military Avenue and Broad Street intersection, but the board ultimately decided to order the first batch and look into the addition next month.
The board also decided to continue discussion on adding new benches to downtown until next spring. Register recommended making sure they are placed in well-lit areas that would benefit the most.
In other news, the board approved sending out a request for proposal for its light pole speaker system project and having Vermeline spend $5,000 for social media promoting the district through the end of December.