Escanaba DDA cuts expenses

ESCANABA — The Escanaba Downtown Development Authority reviewed its 2017-18 budget recently during a meeting at city hall.

DDA Director Ed Legault provided the board with a review of the upcoming budget that forecasts a deficit of $49,246. In order to create a “buffer” and not face a negative balance, the DDA cut over $60,000 in expenses for the 2017-18 budget year.

The DDA’s budget year will begin in July, but the finalized version of the budget has to be submitted by March 24.

Before the cuts, the estimated amount of expenditures was $398,120 and after making $66,000 in cuts, the DDA is forecasted to spend $332,120 in the next fiscal year.

In order to reach a balanced budget, Legault recommended reductions to various DDA funded activities. One example was reducing the cost of the installation of the Christmas garland that lines downtown Ludington Street every holiday season.

City Manager and DDA Trustee Jim O’Toole said while this may be a feasible option, the garland has been a long-standing tradition and the last time it was removed for a holiday season there was a lot of community push to get the garland back downtown.

“The garland has been going up for decades,” he said, adding it is something that is deeply rooted within the Escanaba community and if the DDA would ever want to cut that cost, they should hold a public forum meeting to get insight from residents.

The average cost to put up and take down the garland is over $11,000, said Legault.

Another topic of discussion was the possibility of privatizing the plowing of the DDA parking lot, which is currently cleared of snow by the City of Escanaba. Money set aside for this service totals around $18,000.

“Based on where we are from a budget perspective and trying to take a look at what’s best for the DDA budget, is it worthwhile for to take a look at are there other lower cost providers that can do that?” said Legault.

Other ideas for cost reduction discussed by O’Toole and other DDA board members were to make cuts to other DDA funded activities such as Rock the Dock, Marina Fest, advertisement costs and others.

After lengthy discussion and by Legault’s final recommendation, cuts were approved to made in downtown patrol, Rock the Dock funds, business incubators, property accusations, advertisement costs for the DDA and Escanaba Marketplace, and sidewalk and curb repair. Additional cuts also included funds for Marina fest, and $5,000 from property rehabilitation services.

Rock the Dock funds were reduced by $2,500 while sidewalk/curb repairs were cut from $28,000 to $13,000, putting $15,000 back into the DDA budget.

“When you’re flying this close to the sun, you’ve gotta make cuts,” said O’Toole. “It’s going to look different.”

The cuts were approved unanimously by board members present. Treasurer Andy Crispigna and Trustee Mark Ammel were not present at the meeting.

In other business, the board was given the chance to discuss the Escanaba Marketplace project with Industrial Maintenance Services (IMS) contractor Andy Lapointe. IMS is the contractor in charge of building the 1,800 square-foot pavilion that will be on the 1500 block of Ludington Street. Currently, the structure is secured for winter, said Lapointe, and once spring hits and the weather is feasible for building, crews will get back to finishing the rest of the project, a major portion of that being landscape work.