Budget cuts DDC funding

Jun. 06, 2014 @ 06:52 PM

The Henderson Downtown Development Commission could lose its only full-time position if the Henderson City Council adopts the proposed fiscal year 2014-’15 budget Monday after a public hearing.

Funding for the Main Street manager was not included in the budget, but $10,000 remains to keep the Downtown Development Commission afloat.

Henderson City Manager Ray Griffin said the full-time position was established in the 2012-’13 budget, and the city council allocated $53,200 per year for it at that time.

“The $53,200 for the staff and minimal operation is what was reduced during this balancing process,” he said.

The Downtown Development Commission is part of the North Carolina Main Street Program, which helps communities restore economic vitality to their historic downtowns by providing technical assistance and training.

But resources through the Main Street Program are only available to eligible communities that have a population of less than 50,000 and a full-time downtown manager.

If the manager position loses its funding, Henderson will no longer have access to services and opportunities from the state program.

The state has offered fewer grants through the program in recent years, however, the result of the recession.

“Every budgetary decision, when you get to the level of budgeting we have in Henderson, has a consequence,” Griffin said. “And so, that is one of the very strong downsides — not only losing a position but also that designation. These things are important, but if we have to live within our means and tighten our belt, then something has got to give.”

He said Main Street Manager Pam Hester refocused the commission after the REEF project fell through.

The Zene Street recreational, educational, entertainment and family center lost grant funding of nearly $700,000 from the Golden LEAF Foundation in August.

The foundation sent notice that the REEF project would likely not meet requirements of creating 70 or more full-time jobs.

“I know she has worked very hard to help the DDC get its focus back on Main Street, now that the one project has gone away,” he said.

Hester said events that happen downtown, like the annual Christmas parade and Halloween festivities, will still go on.

“The DDC will be an organization so I am sure they will be taking it over,” she said.

The Downtown Development Commission, which is a nonprofit, has about a dozen volunteer board members.

But Phil Hart, chair of the DDC board, said he doesn’t think it will be feasible for the board to take on the work previously handled by a full-time staffer.

“Basically, we need more help if we want to the same job Pam has been doing,” said Hart, who also owns Dataforge on Garnett Street. “We don’t have the time commitment for that in the current board. We are just volunteers. Ideally, I would like to see us get more volunteers.”

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.