Downtown Development Group Clashes Over By-laws

Questions arise over number of legal board members

~ by Bob Volpe ~

A  WP Downtown Development Authority (DDA) board meeting that some perceived as a potential yawner, due to an array of housekeeping measures, turned into another lively debate over by-laws and record-keeping.

But that’s business as usual for the DDA these days

About half way through the agenda, the board addressed a glitch in their by-laws, and that’s when the verbal fireworks ignited. DDA Board President Merry Jo Larsen began the discussion by reviewing a laundry list of things the board has done over the last several months, aimed at improving the operations of the board. She noted that the DDA by-laws are 15 years old and need to be updated.

At issue was a section of the by-laws that is unclear as to how many members are to serve on the board of directors. That is a big point of contention locally, as some community leaders want changes with the DDA.

Critics, who maintain changes are needed in the current board lineup and direction, have argued that the current nine-member make-up of the group was not in accordance with their by-laws. Those critics maintain that these rules state that the board should be made up of 11 members.

DDA Treasurer Tanner Coy read a resolution, prepared by legal counsel, which clarifies that the board shall be made up of nine members appointed by city council.  Larsen pointed out that having more members on the board make it difficult to get anything accomplished. She said, “I think we work well at nine (members).”

Kellie Case, the city council representative to the DDA, asked what the current statute read. Coy responded, “That, the board shall consist of from 5-11 members.”

Board Member Elijah Murphy, said, “It doesn’t matter what our by-laws say. We can make it nine all we want. You cannot utilize by-laws to undue state statutes. By state statutes our board size is determined
by city council. If and when they decide they want it at 11, then we are at their mercy.”

After further discussion, the board decided to comply with state statues. Board Member Al Born stated, “If we decide we want to make it 11, the board will make that motion and send it to city council to
seek their permission and advertise for and appoint two more members.”

Opportunity Zones, New Office and Record-Keeping

At last month’s regular meeting, Arden Weatherford, who owns BierWerks, asked that the DDA look into a new concept being implemented by some municipalities, called “opportunity zones.” He earlier contended that this would give the town more opportunities.

But board Member Ellen Carrick researched the matter and reported that Woodland Park does not meet the criteria to implement such a zone.

The board then discussed the possibility of moving into office space in the cabin occupied by the Small Business Development Center. WP City Manager Darrin Tangeman said talks are underway, but the matter has not been resolved yet.

During the general discussion portion of the meeting, several matters of interest were brought to the board’s attention.

Planning Director Sally Riley noted the Midland Station Depot has a new roof thanks to donations. She also said plans for turning the depot into a museum are moving forward, and the city is looking into a grant to put an electric car charging station in the Bergstrom Park area.

Toward the end of the meeting, the floor was opened for audience participation.

Park State Bank & Trust President Tony Perry questioned the board on where public records are kept, and if the DDA is in compliance with a state statute that protects personal information. Perry, who is a critic of the DDA, began by stating he is in favor of the board trying to improve their operations, but he then criticized the board for taking the stand that the by-laws issue was just a matter of house- keeping.

He then quoted a state statute that public entities must comply with regarding protection of public information. He questioned how the DDA stores and protects personal information. Larsen commented that she and the board appreciate Perry’s input. She said, “It takes all of us to keep up with what goes on.”

Case answered Perry stating that the DDA records are stored at city hall. Coy then responded that he is in possession of some of the DDA records, since the city removed the DDA from their cabin office space.

He said, “The city is in possession of the majority of DDA records, but we have responded to a number of CORA requests. There is very little that has come to this board by any entity that can be
considered confidential.”