After Delay, City Council Approves “Probationary” DID Funding

Downtown Group Given Full Funding

A week after harshly criticizing Fort Wayne’s Downtown Improvement District, the City Council unanimously approved its contract to provide $150,000 to the organization.

The council on Tuesday approved the contract, which provides $100,000 for operating expenses and $50,000 for capital purchases. The money comes from the city’s income tax revenue.

The approval came with a warning, however, as several council members said it’s more of a probationary approval and the district should expect increased scrutiny at its next budget hearing.

“Clearly this council is very concerned about the (district) and I mean concerned in a good way,” said Council President Tom Smith, R-1st. “I want you to succeed.”

Smith last week criticized the group’s director, Rich Davis, for not making himself accessible to downtown businesses and not publicizing the group’s board meetings.

Because the council already approved the group’s budget last year, it could not reduce the amount of money going to the entity this year, according to Councilman Tom Didier, R-3rd. Didier previously expressed a desire to cut the group’s operating grant to $75,000.

He said the council will closely examine the group’s budget this fall to ensure it is doing everything it can to improve the city’s center. Although restaurants and bars have sprouted locally, he said, the downtown lacks some necessities, such as a grocery store.

Ben Hall, general manager of Hall’s Gas House downtown and a board member for the downtown district, said the criticism from the council was taken positively.

“We’re just trying to be better,” he said.

Hall said the group faces a vote in 2015 on whether it will continue to exist and must prove to downtown property owners that it is worth the expense.

John Urbahns, director of community development for the city, said he will try to streamline the approval process for the downtown district so the council can vote on its budget and contract at the same time. He said the money from the city represents a kind of assessment for the district’s work to improve many government-owned properties in the city’s core.

-Journal Gazette

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Categories: DID Downtown Improvement District, Goverment

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