City BIDs farewell to downtown group

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(File photo by MARY MALONE) The Business Improvement District, which included downtown Sandpoint within its boundaries, was officially dissolved by City Council members Wednesday.

SANDPOINT — City Council members made quick work of dissolving the Business Improvement District for good Wednesday evening, but the overall process was no simple task.

"We did, I think, an exhaustive public outreach to come to this point," said Mayor Shelby Rognstad.

In August, council members approved a "resolution of intent" to dissolve the BID after Roger Woodworth of Mindset Matters, the city's independent consultant who led outreach efforts, advised city officials in July that the best move for the city and the businesses would be to halt the current BID, or leave the boundaries in place and set the fees to zero. Council members ultimately chose to dissolve the organization during this week's public hearing.

Along with outreach efforts by city officials and Woodworth, Boise State University students developed and administered a survey to obtain feedback from property and business owners within BID boundaries to determine whether there was a desire to keep the district in place or dissolve it.

Out of 471 surveys distributed, 144 were completed and returned to city within the allotted time frame.

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.

Councilman Bob Camp, who has spoken out in favor of dissolving the BID since the results of the survey were announced, repeated his reasoning Wednesday for wanting to do away with it, which is stated on page 10 of Woodworth's final report.

"The simplest way forward is to terminate the current BID," Camp said, quoting the document. "This serves as a forcing function. That is, by halting BID activities, the city saves costs and puts the onus on businesses to either work together to establish a new BID for specific purpose or go without."

While outreach efforts led to the conclusion that the BID should be dissolved, the two comments from community members during the public hearing urged otherwise. Molly O'Reilly, who said she does not have a business in the boundaries, said she is concerned about what will happen to downtown without a BID.

"I have a concern about our downtown being able to compete with the mall, Coeur d'Alene, other places to shop, if it doesn't have something like the BID," she said. "You are probably doing the right thing, but if the other recommendation you got to just set everything to zero would make it easier for downtown businesses to decide that, yes, they do want something, then I would encourage you to look at that option instead."

Steve Lockwood said while the BID was not as effective as it could be, it served a "useful purpose."

"I think it would be great if the businesses worked together more effectively ... and leaving a structure in place that made that easier, if in fact that could happen, made sense to me," Lockwood said.

With the BID dissolved, councilwoman Deb Ruehle asked staff to look into writing new guidelines to possibly establish a new BID in the future, which City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton said will be a future conversation. That conversation will also include what to do with the approximately $50,000 balance in the BID fund.

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

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