UPDATE — Port Angeles Downtown Association board votes to break from PA United merger discussions — but next moves are unclear

By PAUL GOTTLIEB
Peninsula Daily News

UPDATE — The Port Angeles Downtown Association board of directors voted 7-1, with one abstention, on Monday not to move forward with efforts to merge the association with two other business groups, it was announced at tonight’s PADA membership meeting.

But it was unclear what the board planned to do next.

After announcing the board vote, PADA President Bob Lumens said he did not know how the PADA board would respond to an invitation from PA United to a joint meeting July 10 with the full boards of the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Port Angeles Business Association for further discussions about a possible merger.

He said it was also unknown whether the board would ask its membership to vote aye or nay on the board’s position, or on the PA merger proposal.

“At this stage we’re not sure what the next moves will be, but the board did vote not to participate in anything further [with PA United],” said Lumens after the membership meeting, attended by 30 members of the PADA. The association has about 170 members.

Lumens' announcement about the board vote came in the last 30 minutes of the two-hour meeting and was preceded by a presentation by Jim Haguewood of PA United, about how three business groups could be merged, and resulting discussion among the PADA members, almost all of them downtown merchants.

Haguewood, former Clallam County Economic Development Council executive director, and other supporters of a merger of the three business groups have been meeting under the banner of PA United for six months with representatives of the chamber, PABA and PADA.

Haguewood argued at the meeting that one consolidated business group, with several internal “task forces” devoted to tourism, business development and retention and governmental issues, would be far more effective “with one strong voice that will get things done” than the three “separate and competing groups we have now — this is an opportunity to fix something that has been broken for at least 40 years.”

But Lumens, owner of a candy and chocolate store downtown, said that a merger would dilute what PADA is now doing for downtown businesses, from maintaining the area’s parking lots to paying for Christmas lights, and could possibly make the downtown ineligible for business tax money the group is now receiving; Lumens said this money totaled $54,000 last year.

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Earlier story today:

PORT ANGELES — Tonight's general membership meeting of the Port Angeles Downtown Association will focus on the board of directors' position on PA United, the effort to merge the downtown association with the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Port Angeles Business Association.

The meeting for the approximately 170 members of the downtown association in the Smugglers Landing meeting room, 115 E. Railroad Ave., begins at 6:30 p.m.

The topic: “The facts about PA United and The PADA Board's Position.”

It will be a preceded by a meeting of PA United members at 3 p.m. at the same location.

Tim Smith, a downtown building owner, PADA member and one of the proponents of PA United, said he plans to attend both the PA United and the PADA meetings.

He said he will be at both along with Jim Haguewood, former Clallam County Economic Development Council executive director and facilitator for PA United's exploratory meetings about unifying the city's business groups into one organization, "a collaborative community effort," with the goal to "strengthen community business organizational functions and programs in the greater Port Angeles area."

All downtown merchants are members of the PADA, paying an annual special tax collected from each business by the city which helps to fund the organization.

PA United has posted information about its efforts at its webite, www.portangelesunited.org.

No public board vote

The downtown association board met Monday night and discussed PA United without voting in open session on a position about the possible merger, then went into a non-public, closed-door executive session, board member Ryan Malane said this morning.

Malane, vice president of marketing and co-owner of the MV Coho ferry/Black Ball Ferry Line, would not comment on what was discussed in the closed meeting.

Some PADA leaders have expressed reservations about PA United and the possible merger, saying PADA had special responsibilitiesm including overseeing parking lots in the downtown, that might be diluted by a merger.

“I support the concept of a united voice for the business community in Port Angeles, in whatever form that may take,” he said in a subsequent email, adding he was speaking for himself and not the board.

“I also believe that the Port Angeles Chamber, Port Angeles Business Association and Port Angeles Downtown Association do great work in their respective areas.

“If any agreement between the organizations can be reached, the devil will be in the details.”

The open part of the board meeting Monday night lasted about 90 minutes, said board member Beth Witters of Cabled Fiber Studio, adding she did not stay for the entire meeting.

“It was a long meeting with lots of good questions,” she said.

Board member Drew Schwab of Anime Kat, who did not attend Monday night's meeting, said board members had discussed PA United at another meeting held within the last month.

“There was no consensus,” Schwab said. “It was pretty well split between people in favor, people not in favor and people who had not made a decision.”

Schwab said he had not yet made up his mind.

PADA Executive Director Barb Frederick said in a email this morning that she would not comment on what transpired Monday night and deferred questions to board President Bob Lumens.

Lumens did not return repeated calls for comment.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: June 24. 2014 10:49PM
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