Negaunee council beginning to look at city DDA restart

The Negaunee City Council is considering whether to restart the city’s Downtown Development Authority, putting it back into working order more than a dozen years after the panel apparently just stopped meeting.

The council, business leaders and others in Negaunee have been discussing this in recent months. It’s unclear why the former DDA stopped operations in 2004.

“You just need a group to come together who wants to see this proceed and be successful,” Negaunee City Manager Jeff Thornton told the council last Thursday. “That’s where the city is at here. You’re basically starting from the beginning, reorganizing it.”

Key considerations we and others believe should be discussed prior to restarting is what specifically would be expected of a new Negaunee DDA? What would be the goals and principle focus? And, where would the money come from to underwrite its operations?

DDAs typically aren’t all that cheap to operate. The tax incremental financing or TIF package that remains in existence in Negaunee would generate but $1,500 annually, not enough to do anything with. TIF financing works by freezing the taxable value of a property at what it was when the DDA was formed and the district established, then collecting or “capturing” any property value increases beyond that amount each year, a Mining Journal story on the issue stated.

The Journal story also noted Thornton said throughout file documents of past DDAs in the city, concerns surfaced repeatedly about the TIF taking funds away from schools, counties and municipalities for the sole use of a relatively small development district. So there are challenges that must be met and overcome to make all of this work.

At this point in time, the concept is a tough one to support. More information — especially where the money to operate it will come from — must be acquired and considered before the Negaunee City Council can make an informed decision. We wish them well in that endeavor.