Council OKs $10,000 for Port Main Street Inc.

Controversial allocation would increase in 2020 under proposal from downtown promotion group
Ozaukee Press staff

For the first time in five years, the City of Port Washington will provide funding for Port Main Street Inc. next year.

Aldermen last week approved a 2019 budget for the Port Washington Business Improvement District, which funds Port Main Street Inc., that includes a $10,000 contribution from the city to Main Street.

But that request, along with a statement in the BID operating plan that the group would seek $15,000 in city funding in 2020 and $25,000 in 2021, prompted a fair amount of discussion by the Common Council.

  “I don’t understand why the city would contribute cash again,” Ald. John Sigwart said, noting that the city used to contribute $25,000 annually to Port Main Street Inc. but, after a clash with the organization, pulled its funding in 2014.

Neither the Port Tourism Council nor the Chamber of Commerce are financed by the city, he noted, instead depending on independent funding sources.

“To me, the city should contribute in-kind, not in cash,” Sigwart said. “I’m not in favor of going back to public funding of Main Street.”

City Administrator Mark Grams said the city’s contribution is being made specifically so the group can hire a full-time director — the first in its history.

The designated amounts for the next two years, he added, are not set in stone.

“Those are wishes,” Grams said.

Port Main Street Inc. has been without a director since  its part-time director Maureen Boylan resigned last December.

BID President BreAnna Porth, who noted that most Main Street programs receive funding from the community, said the new director will have increased responsibilities, particularly in the area of business outreach and retention.

Jim Neulreich, Port Main Street Inc. president, said that in the past the director had been focused more on promotions, such as festivals.

Main Street, he said, should primarily be focused on historical preservation and economical development, especially finding businesses for downtown that match what residents want to see there.

“We look at that $10,000 as a resource provided by residents,” he said.

Main Street has not done a good enough job in reaching out to the downtown business community in the past, Neulreich said, and with an emphasis on economic development and increased hours, the new director is expected to remedy this.

But Sigwart noted that the city has a director of planning and development for the community whose job includes business recruitment and retention.

Neulreich said Main Street is considering a number of initiatives, including a program by which businesses outside the downtown could join Main Street “so we can work together.”

The city’s contribution to Main Street would likely end after the three years noted in the BID operating plan, Neulreich said. By then, he said, the organization’s events should be profitable enough to make up for that funding.

“Our plan is to wean ourselves,” he said. “I ask you to give us three years.”

Ald. Paul Neumyer said the $10,000 request “is a small investment.”

“I think it’s worth trying again. I think it’s a small commitment to our business community,” he said, noting the city isn’t promising three years of funding and the request will be reviewed annually. 

“Let’s give it (Main Street) a chance with a reorganization.”

Ald. Mike Ehlrich concurred, saying, “Main Street is trying to stay relevant. They’re trying to make sure our downtown stays vitalized. That can be done by making this (director) full  time. I see the value quite a bit.

“Let’s give this a shot.”

With Sigwart dissenting, the council approved the operating plan and a BID assessment rate of $2.01 per $1,000 assessed valuation — an amount charged only to properties within the district — with a maximum assessment per property of $3,850.

The assessment is expected to raise $66,000, Grams said.

BID is expected to contribute $81,000 to Port Main Street Inc. next year, according to the operating plan — the amount assessed to the district properties plus a one-time $15,000 payment.


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