Grand Forks City Council questions downtown group’s budgetA Monday night pitch from a newly formed downtown improvement group had most of the Grand Forks City Council encouraging its efforts but asking for proof of financial support.
By: Brandi Jewett, Grand Forks Herald
A Monday night pitch from a newly formed downtown improvement group had most of the Grand Forks City Council encouraging its efforts but asking for proof of financial support.
Coordinators of the Downtown Development Association say the organization would take the form of a nonprofit and its revenue would mostly come from membership dues and events.
The revenue would be used in part to beautify and potentially maintain downtown streets, sidewalks and other features.
Group member Matt Winjum, co-owner of Rhombus Guys pizzeria, estimated the organization’s expenses for 2014 would be $150,000. That would include $55,000 for an executive director’s salary.
“To do it right, this is what is needed,” he said of the expenses. “To be successful, this is what is needed.”
About 40 downtown businesses and individuals have signed letters of intent to support the group, according to member and owner of the Toasted Frog Jon Holth.
The pledges of support weren’t enough to convince some council members of the organization’s financial stability.
The group did not ask for city funding at the meeting, but council members told them to start thinking about how to find other sources before they request public money.
Council member Doug Christensen suggested getting three- or five-year financial commitments from the 40 businesses and other downtown entities. Enough support from the private sector could give the city a reason to spend public money on the group, according to Christensen.
Several other members voiced their support for the group, but had similar reservations about funding.
“When people ask me why I support a bunch of young people who are blowing money on downtown, I want to be able to look them in the eye and say here’s their plan, here’s their budget,” council member Dana Sande said.
• The council also approved the purchase of about $80,000 worth of upgrades to the Grand Forks Regional Bomb Squad’s bomb detonation robots. The upgrades to software and mechanical parts will improve the robots’ functioning, according to a staff report. The robots are used about six times a year.
Call Jewett at (701) 780-1108; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1108; or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @GFCityBeat or on her blog at citystreetbeat.areavoices.com.