Alicia McGovern, chairperson of the Belleville Downtown Development Authority, proposed a “partnership” with Lake Fest and Belleville Area Chamber of Commerce with a donation of $25,000. She said this was[…]

Alicia McGovern, chairperson of the Belleville Downtown Development Authority, proposed a “partnership” with Lake Fest and Belleville Area Chamber of Commerce with a donation of $25,000.
She said this was a recommendation of the DDA’s Economic Development subcommittee.
McGovern, of Van Buren Township with her business in the Belleville DDA district, and Kelly McWilliams of Van Buren Township with her business in the City of Belleville outside of the DDA district, make up the DDA’s new Economic Development subcommittee, along with DDA Director/Deputy City Manager Tim McLean. McWilliams represents the Chamber of Commerce on the DDA.
“It’s not seed money,” McGovern said in beginning her presentation to the board at its regular meeting on April 20. She said it was a “partnership” over Lake Fest.
Director McLean recalled how when the person from the Northville DDA attended their meeting, she said it spends $30,000 on promotions. He said the Royal Oak DDA has a large budget and spends $100,000 for Beats & Eats. He said the money pays for neat things that can be done.
“Lake Fest is something we can support,” said McGovern, adding that the festival has to pay for DPW and police presence. “If we have a recession, that would hurt.”
Director McLean pointed out the lake is the biggest asset the city has and should be promoted.
In a memo to the board, McLean said the Economic Development committee has identified the need for a one-time appropriation from the DDA fund balance to establish a line item in the budget for an economic-development-related item. He said this includes repairs and maintenance to various items in the streetscape on Main Street.
“The Economic Development committee has suggested a one-time appropriation of $50,000. A portion of this appropriation could be utilized for a partnership with the Belleville Area Chamber of Commerce on the Lake Fest event.
“If the DDA board is receptive to this idea, my recommendation would be to take this to DDA Budget Committee with a recommendation,” McLean concluded in his memo.
McGovern said they could truly “sponsor” Winter Fest and have a “partnership” with Lake Fest.
“What does that mean?” asked Denise Baker, a member of the Finance subcommittee with Treasurer Sabrina Richardson-Williams.
McGovern said the DDA could meet with them and see what they need or give them the money.
Baker, a CPA who co-owns her business in the DDA district, said that amount of money could do some serious marketing.
Treasurer Richardson-Williams asked about the $50,000 line item and was told $25,000 of that would be for the Chamber and $25,000 for McLean for maintenance of the downtown.
Richardson-Williams said the budget has a $10,000 line item for promotions and she didn’t know they were doing something else.
Baker said Economic Development is more than maintenance, which is more capital outlay.
McGovern said this is a “starting point.”
Richardson-Williams asked what is a “partnership” and McGovern replied they don’t specifically know, but the Chamber budget for the festival is $75,000.
McLean said $25,000 would be good.
“For what?” Richardson-Williams asked.
McGovern said the DDA would meet with them and see what they need.
Mayor Kerreen Conley, who sits on the DDA, said the DDA didn’t open up this “partnership” to any other group, just Lake Fest. She said the Lake Fest is in the Belleville community and Van Buren Township Supervisor Kevin McNamara says the lake is his and he loves his Lake Fest.
She said they have seen one year of Lake Fest and it was going to become a 501c3 and then didn’t.
“Twenty-five-thousand dollars without an idea of what for?” Mayor Conley asked. She said Lake Fest doesn’t want to pay for police and fire services, yet the city makes every other group pay. She said the other groups may say, “Why aren’t you partnering with us?” and “Isn’t my activity as good as theirs?”
“If it’s a partnership, we should open it up to other groups,” Mayor Conley said. “What if the Council for the Arts wanted music twice a week in different locations in the city? We didn’t ask others.”
McGovern said in the DDA’s strategic planning session they talked about partnerships. She said the Chamber is putting on one big thing for all and they are the only one putting it on.
“I feel we need to be transparent,” Mayor Conley insisted. “Our ‘sponsorships’ fill out applications. I don’t remember the chamber coming to us. They do bring value.
“They don’t operate out of that building [that they use as their address at 248 Main St.] and though they have a banner, there is no presence,” Conley said.
“Hand over $25,000 and they’re profitable. What if $25,000 is left over?” Conley asked.
“I feel we had no conversation on this,” Conley said, noting the DDA provided seed money for the Belleville Area Council for the Arts for the first two years of Music Lakeside.
McGovern said this is the starting point for a potential partnership. She asked if they wanted to do something new or keep it the way it’s always been.
Richardson-Williams said the last she heard, the Chamber was going to get a 501c3 and McWilliams replied, “They said they’d rather not.”
Mayor Conley said it hadn’t been filed for the DDA’s request for sponsorship money and, “We let that go without any further conversation. They did well last year.”
Mayor Conley said the DDA’s sponsorships go one to an organization and the Chamber had Lake Fest and Winter Fest, which was two.
“That policy is a little gray,” she said, suggesting maybe the DDA should consider sponsorships per event.
McGovern said they gave the Central Business Community $2,000 and they do a lot of things. “If we did per event, we could change that.”
Mayor Conley said the DDA could consider how many people the event brings to the city. She noted at the strategic planning session the DDA members talked about a lot of things.
“All of the surrounding area has to be lifted up,” McGovern said.
Mayor Conley suggested having a marketing line item, with a part-time person for social media to truly market the downtown. She said they could get a lot of input from businesses to get ideas for marketing.
McGovern said they could meet with the Chamber and ask them, “What are you looking for us to do?”
She said hiring a marketing firm or having a Chamber partnership? She said it’s a great starting point and they can’t get blocked on just one thing.
“The Chamber is doing a lot of good things. They’re supporting small businesses,” she said. [The Chamber has announced an “Economic Outlook” event co-sponsored by the Chamber and McGovern’s business, Edward Jones Financial, on May 23.]
She suggested they go back to the drawing board.
McWilliams said a lot of people are involved in the Chamber and she wants to back them in some way.
“I’m not in the DDA district, but I support events,” McWilliams said.
She said the community needs Lake Fest back. She said they are a great crew and they have the best interest of the community. She said the first year of Lake Fest was very good.
“I’m speaking on behalf of the DDA today, to make it more wonderful,” she said.
DDA member Jennifer Winter was asked what revenue changes did her business, Egan’s Pub, see because of the festival.
Winter said her business is the same all year round. The festival didn’t bring “new” people, she said, adding that it did rain on Friday night of last year’s festival.
“I’m all for partnering,” she said.
“I like the event, but … I didn’t attend,” said Robinson-Williams. “I have no problem supporting this, but I don’t know where this fits.” She said they were giving $2,000 grants and then she hears it’s $50,000 and then $25,000.
“Economic Development. This is what we’d like to spend money on,” she said.
McGovern said her Economic Development committee could meet with the Chamber and they could talk to others and get information from a marketing firm.
Baker said she likes the marketing firm idea for the whole city and they could decide how much to spend for each event.
McGovern said a marketing firm could save the Chamber some money. She said the marketing firm could give an annual figure.
Conley said she is not opposed to a partnership, but the DDA is not being transparent. She said they should let the people know and determine how much they would get apiece. She said this is going to get scrutinized.
McWilliams said, “They didn’t ask,” referring to other groups.
“They didn’t know to ask,” Winter said.
Conley said the DDA has a fiduciary responsibility and they would need to know how the $25,000 is spent.
“I am not opposed to partnership,” she said, adding she doesn’t want to be criticized for not taking fiscal responsibility.
“The Chamber never came and asked us,” Conley said. “It didn’t want to pay for police and fire.” She said City Manager/Police Chief Dave Robinson gave them a low estimated figure for the cost and he sends officers home if they are not needed to save costs.
“We’ve got to be transparent,” agreed McGovern. She said this idea came through conversation. She said she sat on the Lake Fest committee last year and they are having money problems again this year. She said they can open this up to other groups and possibly take care of all the marketing for all events.
Conley said the DDA can support businesses all year long, rather than just one event.
McWilliams reminded them DDA money all has to be spent in the DDA district, under law.
McGovern said Lake Fest is in the DDA district. She said she and McWilliams will meet and bring the proposal back to the board.
“We didn’t budget for this,” said Robinson-Williams. “I feel uncomfortable giving one group that kind of money.”
In other business at the one-and-a-half-hour meeting, the DDA:
• Turned down McLean’s last-minute request to add the Victory Park Grant Match item to the agenda and it will be put on the agenda for the next meeting. McLean said the county needs a resolution from the DDA in support of the $270,000 grant being sought and approval of paying the $27,000 grant match;
• Was advised by McGovern that the written policy on Citizen Comments presented to them is, “so everyone’s feeling heard and the meetings won’t run away from us.” There are times for Citizen Comments at the beginning and end of the agenda, limited to three minutes per period;
• Approved the proposal from Osier Electric for $13,285, plus 10% contingency on equipment only, to put in an electrical cabinet in the green-belt area with the existing conduit on Fourth Street Place with underground electric service to the DTE pole. When it will be done depends on when DTE tells them what kind of cabinet it approves. Another bid came from CRG Electric for $14,158.54. It was noted an estimate of $120,000 was given as the cost of removing the electrical pole at the Fourth Street Square and putting lines underground;
• Took no action on McLean’s proposed purchasing policy, with DDA members saying they don’t see a formal procedure in what he presented. Conley said a good place to start is the DDA Policies and Procedures found in the DDA’s white binder members get. McGovern said they will look for their binders and come back to discuss it. Baker asked McLean to get quotes for the tree trimming, fences, and trash receptacles and put them in documents ready to approve at the next meeting;
• Heard McLean report that the new outdoor sculptures will be installed on May 10. He said the sculpture intended to be in front of the library was sold, so the city will get its second choice there;
• Heard McGovern report that DDA member Valerie Kelley-Bonner’s tumor is not cancerous;
• When questioned about the upcoming concerts and food truck event called the “First Wednesday” event last year when the DDA sponsored it on the Fourth Street Square, heard McWilliams reply, “We’re not doing it… I didn’t know it was something we were doing each year… It was up to me and I was told Van Buren Township does something on Wednesdays.” She said no music is lined up. “People are talking about it and I tell them we’re not doing it this year.” McGovern said they would table the project.
Van Buren Township Recreation Commission reports three concerts scheduled for Wednesdays this summer: July 13, 20, and 27 at Quirk Park, none on the first Wednesday. Wayne County Community College has concerts planned for Wednesdays, Aug. 3 and 10.

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