Thursday, September 29th, 2016

Waukesha Business Improvement District – gone

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Downtown resident an property owner sent out an email this afternoon confirming Waukesha Business Improvement District is dissolved. Enough property owners remained on the petition to dissolve the BID. She sent out a statement that says in part,

While I do not think the news that the BID is dissolved is cause for celebration, the end result should result in less overall controversy downtown and our voluntary tax dollars will not be used to provide support for events put on by other entities. Many of us felt that we had been forced into dissolving the BID due to the Mayor’s actions and appointments to the Board. The reason the BID is dissolved is because it abandoned its original vision and mission while not allowing for its members (property owners) to participate. Instead of helping to fill downtown vacancies and retaining existing business, the BID’s purpose was changed to promote a continual party-type atmosphere on Main Street. This change in purpose and focus was opposed by many of the property owners and it is the reason the BID was dissolved.

Many have felt that we have been struggling for the last two years against a system that had gone “stone deaf” to the property owners concerns and desires. Had the property owners wanted a grantor- type organization, the strategic plan and mission statement would have evolved that way over a number of years. It appears that the Mayor and a number of the BID Board decided that the BID was not worth existing unless its money would only be available for the support of the Mayor’s projects or be provided to his allies.

There was a last-ditch effort to try to save the BID both by the Council and by at least one of the Board members, Bill Huelsman. However, the other property owners remained firm.

Public controversy with the BID began when Waukesha Mayor Jeff Scrima used the BID bank account to pass through $10,000 from his “New Day in Waukesha” fund for his GuitarTown project without the prior knowledge or authorization of the BID board. Then BID President Norm Bruce attempted to inflate the cost of an open records request made by me by asking the vendor to increase the amount charged for copying the requested public records. After that, BID Executive Director Meghan Sprager complained of a hostile workplace environment and even alleged her car had been vandalized. When her complaint went public, Alderman Roger Patton and the other board members resigned from the BID board to prevent, in Patton’s words, the airing of “dirty laundry.”

After the BID board members resigned en masse, several property owners and aldermen demanded the mayor appoint a new board. Some of the businesses downtown launched an “education” effort to prevent the BID members from being appointed because they wanted to let the BID die from inactivity. However, the Council managed to get Scrima to appoint new board members, only for the new board members to pass an operating plan that was completely contrary to the desires of the majority of the property owners. They petitioned to dissolve the BID.

Now comes the fight over the BID’s assets and sizable reserve fund, the latter some have said has been the real issue all along.

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