City sets BID listening sessions

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Sandpoint city officials scheduled several listening sessions next week to include business owners in the upcoming decision whether to keep, restructure or dissolve the Business Improvement District. (DAILY BEE FILE PHOTO/MARY MALONE)

SANDPOINT — As a decision on whether to keep or dissolve the Business Improvement District approaches, city officials scheduled a series of listening sessions next week to hear from those within BID boundaries.

Discussions by City Council members regarding the BID have been ongoing since the Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce employee who managed the BID resigned last August. The chamber retained management through March, after which city staff took over.

Council members hope to have a decision by July 20, prior to finalizing the 2017-2018 budget, but a decision could run into August depending on the feedback.

The only item the BID has scheduled before a decision is made is the flower baskets program. Approximately 100 baskets were ordered last fall and are scheduled to arrive May 18, just in time for Lost in the '50s weekend. The chamber contracted out watering services for the flower baskets and council members recently agreed to a renewal of that contract. Ongoing advertisements, such as radio and magazine ads, have been discontinued.

City officials worked with Boise State University students in the public policy and community and regional planning graduate programs recently to develop and administer a survey to BID members. The students reviewed the structure and organization of the BID, as well as developing a 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.

Out of 471 surveys distributed, only 144 were completed and returned to city within the allotted time frame. Due to the 31-percent response rate, city administrator Jennifer Stapleton said it was not a statistically significant response. The survey revealed 55 percent of those who responded believe the BID should be dissolved, while 25 percent said it should continue and 20 percent were undecided. But many who expressed the desire to see the BID dissolved, also said a restructuring of the BID may be sufficient. Therefore, restructuring of BID fees, boundaries and more will be topics discussed during the upcoming listening sessions and workshops.

Each listening session will include a short presentation of the survey results and provide time for BID members to give input.

According to a city press release, Roger Woodworth of Mindset Matters, an independent consulting firm with significant strategic planning and economic development expertise, was retained by the city to engage business owners in assessing the current situation of the BID and develop consensus recommendations as to any changes, including potential termination. The evaluation will consider governance and representation, fee structure, boundaries, types of businesses within the boundaries, participant engagement and perceptions, administrative effectiveness, project planning, selection and results, and other factors.

Workshops will be held later this summer where city officials will report back and consider the information gathered during the listening sessions. Workshop participants will consider the full range of BID alternatives — revision, termination, or continuation as is. Recommendations developed during the workshops will be circulated for review by the business owners in the BID prior to finalizing a report for City Council to inform its decision on the future of the BID.

“It is critical that all of the businesses in the BID participate in this effort so we can get to the end result that reflects the desires and needs of the majority of the businesses within the district," Stapleton said. "It is clear that the current model and structure is not working."

In an effort to include all business owners, the listening sessions are scheduled at different times and locations:

• May 15 — 2-4 p.m., Little Panida Theater, 300 N. First Ave.; 7-9 p.m., Pend d’Oreille Winery, 301 Cedar St., Suite 101

• May 16 — 7-9 a.m. — Cedar Street Bistro, 334 N. First Ave.; 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Jalapeno’s banquet room, 314 N. Second Ave.

• May 22 — 2-4 p.m., Little Panida Theater, 300 N. First Ave.; 7-9 p.m., Pend d’Oreille Winery, 301 Cedar St., Suite 101

• May 23 — 7-9 a.m., Cedar Street Bistro, 334 N. First Ave.

A limited number of individual interviews will also be part of the process. Contact Melissa Ward at 208-263-3317 or email mward@sandpointidaho.gov to schedule an interview.

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

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