Council questions downtown improvement group’s budget

The Downtown Development Association received a warm welcome from some and a financial lecture from others Monday when two members presented its goals and proposed budget to the Grand Forks City Council.

(You can read a quick recap of the meeting here. The group was introduced in an earlier post.)

The group, which will focus on bringing more events, more beauty and a brand to downtown, definitely has the backing of Mayor Mike Brown.

“This is the right time, the right people and the right plan,” he said at Monday’s council meeting.

A few council members voiced initial support for the idea but want more funding details. While there is city money the group could apply for, becoming self-sustaining is what council members say they want to see.

Ideas such as temporarily making the group part of the mayor’s budget until it can sustain itself or looking into the possibility of creating a special assessment district for the downtown area were thrown around. Whether or not a special assessment could even be created needs to be researched by the city.Council member Terry Bjerke said he didn’t believe the group is necessary.

“We’ve been revitalizing downtown for 50 years,” he said. “This is the fifth decade. When does it end?”After the 1997 flood, the city made a choice not to move away from downtown, according to council member Doug Christensen. Having people come in and want to improve is something the city should embrace, he said.

Proposed slogan for downtown Grand Forks. Photo credit: Downtown Development Association.

After reviewing the proposed budget, the council has put in a request to have the group bring budgets from other downtown associations in the state for comparison. It also asked the group to go out and confirm financial commitments from businesses that have pledged support.

Organizers said membership will be open to anyone with an interest in downtown, not just business owners. For more information, you can visit the DDA’s Facebook page.

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