WP Council Debates Fate of Main Street Group Funding

~ by Bob Volpe ~

The Woodland Park City Council held a special work session last week to give the staff direction on how to proceed with drawing up the 2021 budget.

Dominating the discussion was the fate of funding for the Main Street organization.  This is part of a state and national program that tries to revitalize downtown areas by highlighting their historic attributes.

The session opened with a presentation by Main Street Board Chairperson Laurie Glauth.

Main Street Board Chairperson Laurie Glauth

Glauth spoke about the organization’s mission, history, funding history, and the organization’s 2020 accomplishments.

She focused on the organization’s funding history, noting that since 2017 the city has reduced funding to Main Street in fiscal years 2018, and 2019, but held funding to the 2019 level in 2020. The city-funded Main Street to the tune of approximately $50,000 in 2017, cut that in half in 2018, and halved it again in 2019/20.

After Glauth’s presentation, several local business owners spoke about their support for Main Street and how the organization has helped their bottom line.

When it was council’s turn to debate, there were some surprising changes of heart by certain elected leaders, while others attacked the organization over their lack of seeking avenues of funding other than a handout by taxpayers.

Mayor Pro Tem, Hilary LaBarre has gone on record several times, stating she opposes government funding of charitable organizations. However, she indicated at last week’s budget session she would make an exception in the case of Main Street, since the organization’s benefits are enough to gain her support. She said, “Especially during this budget season to be so concerned about supporting businesses, this (Main Street) is one of the greatest supports for our businesses that we have in this community.”

Mayor Val Carr, on the other hand, believes Main Street should not be funded at all. He said, “I’ve been on pretty much all these boards.” He noted the ranking system council used to determine priorities for the budget, and that funding for Main Street ranked low. He said, “We frankly ranked giving a token amount to Main Street just above giving no funding to Main Street.”

Debate veered to possible other ways of dealing with Main Street. It was suggested that perhaps Main Street should be incorporated into the city. When Main Street was first dreamed up, it was a brain child of the city council and was part of city operations.

City Manager Darrin Tangeman offered some insight into this possibility. He said, “I have not sat down with Main Street to do a task analysis on how much time they commit to

City Manager Darrin Tangeman

some of their administrative tasks. It is something we could do to see what it might take to bring Main Street back into the city, and that might make it more sustainable over time. There is an option there.”

There was also much discussion on how Main Street might do a better job by collaborating with other organizations that have overlapping goals, such as the Downtown Development Authority, the Chamber of Commerce, and Keep Woodland Park Beautiful.

Conversation then led to whether or not Main Street should be funded and by how much.

Opinions ranged from funding $60,000, to having their funding dependent on certain conditions of achievement. In the end, council directed staff to pencil in funding at last year’s amount subject to change as further debate may change the scenario for the Main Street organization.