Sparks Still Ignite Over WP Development Group – Bob Volpe

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The financial future of the Woodland Park Downtown Development Authority, and its plans to repay a $1 million loan to the city, generated a lively debate during last week’s council meeting.

At the same time, both representatives from the DDA and the city appeared ready to craft a mini-peace treaty.

During a recent meeting, the DDA board, in a surprise move, voted to oust City Manager David Buttery as interim director. The decision was decided by a 5-3 tally, with the group deciding to take a more independent route from the city government and spend less money on administrative costs.

At issue is a renewed fight between the majority members of the DDA and the city over how money is being allocated for improving the downtown, and how it is handling the Woodland Station area. Meanwhile, some officials are questioning the agenda of certain DDA members and whether they are behaving in a rogue fashion and operating with clear political motives. In addition, some say the DDA, under its new reign, is trying to pursue an unrealistic divorce from the city.

Last week, DDA Chairperson Merry Jo Larson addressed the council and expressed a desire to continue to work with council on issues involving downtown development.

DDA board member Tanner Coy discussed the issue regarding repayment of the city’s $1 million dollar loan to the DDA. Coy asked for a six month extension on the DDA’s next loan payment. He stated the DDA is solid and strong, but needs time to adjust and bring two new board members up to speed on the group.

He promised council that the group would give periodic updates on the status of the loan and insisted the agreement requires council to approve and extension of the loan.

After Coy’s appeal for a loan extension, City Manager David Buttery said, “There is no decision tonight on the loan itself. It’s a decision to allow the DDA and the city to continue working towards resolution for that loan.”

Coy continued stating, “DDA has the work ethic and skills to end financial help. The DDA itself is financially still very very weak. Financing the city debt is among our top priorities. To finance the loan we may have to operate for some time without executive staff, which is a paid position, to free up funds.” He ended with, “We will be accountable to the city and the citizens. I promise we will whatever schedule you decide.”

While most of the council was in agreement that the loan extension should be approved, Councilwoman Carrol Harvey appeared visibly upset over the idea. She grilled the council and Coy insisting that “some” money needs to be paid in accordance with the original timeline for payment.

Harvey seemed upset that with the ousting of Buttery from the DDA, the council didn’t have an inside card to play with regarding the group’s future. She said, “We had an executive administrator and now we don’t. State statutes make us responsible for the loan.”

After Harvey’s comments, Buttery chimed in, “It is acceptable to me to work with the board in whatever capacity.”

Councilman Paul Saunier expressed his faith in the DDA, “I have faith in the DDA. We need to give them a chance to get a solid foundation.” to which, Harvey responded, “I agree, but they are answerable to this body. We should get some payment in good faith.”

Councilman John Schafer agreed with Harvey. “I think it isn’t fair.”

After the banter between council members, Mayor Neil Levy said, “I think we can all work together on this.”

When council was finished speaking, Coy suggested that a retreat or executive session be set up to further discuss the issue. Council agreed to this suggestion, and Councilman Saunier ended the discussion with, “This is a good step forward to mending fences.”