By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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“It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is,” Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce President Todd Ortloff said at Tuesday’s PA United meeting.
“We’ve got to move ahead.”
The downtown association’s board is expected to vote Monday on abandoning its participation in PA United’s efforts, PADA board President Bob Lumens said Wednesday.
PA United is attempting to merge the Chamber of Commerce, the Port Angeles Business Association and the downtown association into one organization to more effectively spur business development.
PA United’s goal is to create an as-yet unnamed single organization that would remove the presumably duplicative efforts and staffing of three groups, marshaling their activities and energy into one entity, organizers have said.
Lumens said PADA might lose too much through consolidation.
The group fears losing management of the Main Street Program for downtown improvement and coordination of the Parking and Business Improvement Area, or PBIA, under which the downtown association maintains parking lots, according to Lumens.
In addition, Lumens said the group has been preoccupied with working on a response to city concerns that the downtown association’s first-quarter 2014 performance is in default on its funding agreement with the city.
City officials cited a $20,000 business and occupation, or B&O, tax contribution from the city’s electric utility for the Main Street Program and also sought documentation on spending of those funds assessed on downtown businesses through the PBIA.
The PADA board voted barely two weeks ago, on June 2, to continue participating in PA United in anticipation of a July 10 joint meeting of all three boards and a subsequent merger vote by members of the organizations.
Now the board may change its mind.
“What we have faced every time along the way is, do we keep being involved, do we see a future for us in that,” Lumens said.
“The more we look at it, the more we think there might not be one.”
A draft spending plan for the as-yet unnamed consolidated organization has the downtown association neither administering the Main Street Program nor downtown parking under a contract with the city.
The joint budget foresees an increase in expenditures from $335,291 in 2015 to $467,491 in 2019 and assumes paid membership will more than double to 958 during that period.
That budget played a factor in Lumens’ increasing pessimism about merging with the other two groups, he said.
“Their intention is to tell us, ‘We don’t want the PBIA, we don’t want Main Street,’ and that’s pretty much what we are about.”
Under consolidation, all three business groups would lose their names.
Members would participate in five task-force groups: entrepreneurship, downtown-main street, promotions and marketing, operations and business development, and government affairs.
But chamber members, who now focus attention on tourism promotion, and business association members, who target government affairs, “are the ones who are not changing 97 percent of what they do,” Lumens said.
Lumens has attended most meetings of PA United, the first of which was Jan. 29.
Neither he nor PADA Executive Director Barb Frederick were at Tuesday’s meeting.
They spent most of the day drafting a response to the city’s funding concerns, Lumens said.
PA United participants Tuesday also heard a presentation on lodging taxes from Byron Olson, the city’s chief financial officer.
Under the draft financial plan, $65,000 in lodging taxes would continue to fuel operation of the visitor center, now run by the chamber.
Olson said City Council members have expressed “general support” of PA United’s goals and objectives.
But will a merger be effective if the organization that represents the city’s retail core is not at the table?
“We just want to build a business group that represents all of the businesses, essentially, and hopefully some of those folks in the downtown want to be involved in what we are putting together in advocating for business generally,” Ortloff said Wednesday.
“I still think we can have a very good, united voice.
“If that one task-force box is not specifically a downtown association box, it’s still going to have the same principles; it’s still going to have a way to improve the downtown corridor and the retail sector.
PA United meets again at 3 p.m. Tuesday at Smugglers Landing restaurant— the afternoon after the downtown association board may meet to withdraw from the group.
The July 10 joint meeting will be from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Port Angeles CrabHouse Restaurant.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.