No clear answer on BID future

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City officials received a draft report of survey results on the Business Improvement District, but with only a 31 percent response rate, results were inconclusive. The report does indicate that services like the summer flower basket program are highly valued by BID members. (File photo by MARY MALONE)

SANDPOINT — Out of 471 surveys distributed to those within the city's Business Improvement District, only 144 were completed and returned in the allotted time frame.

During Wednesday's City Council meeting, city administrator Jennifer Stapleton said a 45-percent response rate would be statistically significant, so because of the 31-percent response rate, there was nothing "definitive or absolute" in the results.

"We don't see that the vast majority of respondents clearly want the BID to stay in existence, nor clearly want the BID dissolved," Stapleton said.

The draft report of the survey, which Stapleton presented to council members Wednesday, revealed 55 of those who responded believe the BID should be dissolved, while 25 percent said it should continue and 20 percent were undecided. But, it's "not that simple," Stapleton said, because written-in responses indicate that changes are needed.

Stapleton said fee structure is a significant factor as results indicate 90 percent of respondents believe a different fee structure should be used. Some options for different fee structures include payment amounts based on square footage, type of business, and location and proximity to the downtown core — 49 percent of respondents believe a combination of these methods would be best.

City officials worked with Boise State University students in the public policy and community and regional planning graduate programs to develop the survey. The students reviewed the structure and organization in the BID, as well as developing the survey to obtain feedback from property and business owners to determine whether there is a desire to keep the BID in place or dissolve it.

The Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce employee assigned to manage the BID resigned in August. Chamber officials have since extended their agreement to manage it through the end of March, but the fate of the BID is still unknown.

Some other highlights in the results include the services provided by the BID, with 82 percent of respondents finding the Christmas tree and holiday lights very valuable or significantly valuable, and 76 percent finding the summer flower baskets very or significantly valuable. The vast majority of respondents also believe that services like the BID website and quarterly newsletter were not valuable.

Daily Bee publisher Jim McKiernan, who spoke in the public comment portion of the meeting as a chamber board and BID member, suggested a workshop be held for city officials to get further input from those within the BID before a final decision is made. His sentiments were echoed by Patricia Walker, executive director of the Panida Theater, who offered to host a workshop. Both said the BID has value and should continue, agreeing some changes could be made rather than getting rid of it altogether.

Mayor Shelby Rognstad said staff, council members and himself would continue to reach out to BID members and the public to come up with the best solution.

"Don't expect us to make any decision in haste," Rognstad said.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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