Gloversville BID moving toward dissolution

The Gloversville Downtown Business Improvement District Board of Directors discussed the logistics of continuing or disbanding the organization during Tuesday's meeting ahead of this month's vote by taxpaying property owners in the BID district to decide the organization's future. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

GLOVERSVILLE — The Gloversville Downtown Business Improvement District Board of Directors held a pair of meetings this week to allow BID property owners and members of the public the opportunity to discuss the possible dissolution of the organization that is being put to a vote this month, but those in attendance focused their discussion on the logistics of the options rather than the merits.

The BID Board of Directors discussed the future of the organization during the Dec. 11 meeting, raising concerns that the board composed of volunteers providing services downtown cannot grow any further given the current level of community and board involvement.

The organization’s downtown activities are funded by a 15 percent surtax on the real property located in the BID footprint, creating an annual budget of about $23,000. Although the organization lists 18 board members and three city representatives on its website, the monthly BID board meeting typically draws the attendance of roughly 12 members and representatives.

BID activities include putting out and caring for seasonal potted plants, maintaining Castiglione Memorial Park, constructing the micropark, supporting economic development activities and putting on a number of annual community events including the Southern Adirondack Wine and Food Festival, Chalk Art on Main and the Home for the Holidays Tree Lighting and Downtown Stroll.

BID Board of Directors President Jim Schlesier noted in December that the city clerk’s position will be expanded this year to take a more active role in economic development and an administrative role over the recreation commission, pointing to the commission under the leadership of City Clerk Jennifer Mazur, who represents the city on the BID board, as a group that may be better suited to undertake the activities currently conducted by the BID.

The board ultimately decided to put the issue of whether to continue the BID or dissolve the organization to a vote by the approximately 51 taxpaying property owners within the BID, scheduling discussion sessions for Monday night and Tuesday morning at the Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Notices of the discussion sessions were sent by certified mail to BID property owners along with voting ballots to be returned by hand during the meetings or by mail postmarked by Tuesday.

In order for the BID to be dissolved, more than 50 percent of the taxpaying property owners in the BID footprint would need to vote in favor of its dissolution or votes from more than 50 percent of the total assessed valuation of the BID would need to be cast in favor of dissolution. The vote would then need to be ratified by the Common Council.

In the event the BID is dissolved, any of the organization’s unattributed fund balance would be turned over to the city and could potentially be assigned by the city to the recreation commission’s budget.

The board originally planned to open the already returned ballots on Tuesday, but board members agreed during the meeting that ballots should not be opened until all of the votes had been collected, planning to count the vote during a special meeting on Jan. 24 at 8 a.m.

The board members discussed the logistics of the possible outcomes of the vote during Tuesday’s meeting, noting that in the event that the BID is to be dissolved, the board will need to prepare documentation for submission to the state Comptroller’s Office and prepare to turn over assets and responsibilities to the city.

Downtown Development Specialist Jennifer Jennings suggested that the board form subcommittees to organize and conclude the organization’s activities and responsibilities.

“Even though the call to dissolve is happening on the 24th, the BID is not technically done with all the business that’s happening, so you’re still an entity to be able to tie up all those loose ends,” Jennings said.

If taxpayers vote to dissolve the BID, the decision would come before the Common Council during the Feb. 12 meeting. Jennings suggested that board members be prepared to communicate physical assets and responsibilities ahead of that date in the event the organization is disbanded.

Jennings recommended the board form one subcommittee to focus on legally required paperwork and finances and another to focus on physical assets and responsibilities.

“To come up with the logistics of how it actually happens rather than, ‘Well, I guess the pots are going to go to the city, but I don’t really know where or when,'” Jennings said.

The board agreed, intending to begin planning during the Jan. 24 meeting if taxpayers vote to disband the BID.

If the property owners vote to continue the BID, activities will continue as usual and nomination ballots for the Board of Directors will be mailed out following the Jan. 24 meeting, ahead of the annual meeting that will be held in February.

Following Tuesday’s meeting, board Vice President William Rowback Jr. said Monday’s meeting was sparsely attended and followed a similar course, with those in attendance discussing what will happen with the BID following the vote rather than the vote itself.

“It was very productive, we talked quite a bit about what if it stays, what if it goes, then we were discussing the finances,” Rowback said.

The board plans to make a recommendation to the city regarding the use of the BID’s remaining fund balance if the organization disbands, with some members suggesting the money should go towards the recreation commission’s budget for activities and events while others say the funds should be used to purchase new holiday decorations to replace the aging decorations used seasonally downtown.

“I would love to earmark whatever was left for Christmas decorations. I can remember as a child coming down Main Street and having the decorations across Main Street be very festive,” Rowback said. “Some of the members mentioned here this morning, the city of Johnstown has a beautiful park that’s lit up and that’s what we need here, we need to promote our city.”

Rowback said he plans to remain involved with downtown activities whether the BID continues or dissolves and hopes that local participation will expand regardless of the outcome of this month’s vote.

“Whether it’s during the holiday season or all year long our residents need to be more involved in our community,” Rowback said. “We have to move in a positive direction so that we can benefit our city whether it’s downtown or within the city limits.”