PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles Downtown Association’s membership should vote on merging with two other business groups, although the board has already voted against it, the organization’s board president said Wednesday.
“Sure, it ought to go to members,” an exasperated Bob Lumens said the morning after a lively membership meeting Tuesday night attended by about 30 association members who went back and forth over consolidation.
“Let them decide what they want to do with it,” Lumens said.
“Frankly, at this point, I don’t care.”
The association is composed of owners of approximately 170 businesses in downtown’s Parking and Business Improvement Area, a special tax assessment district.
Lumens, owner of Northwest Fudge & Confections on First Street, agreed Wednesday that opinions about a merger that were expressed Tuesday evening were evenly split.
He said he will consult with other board members before a decision is made on putting the issue to a vote of the membership.
Efforts by PA United to merge the downtown association, the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Port Angeles Business Association have stumbled this week.
On Monday evening, barely three weeks after voting that those efforts should continue, the downtown association board voted 7-1, with one abstention, to withdraw from the drive toward consolidation.
Those voting against continued collaboration with PA United were Eric Brown, Brown’s Outdoor; Lauren Jeffries-Johnson, Udjat Beads; Anthony Richards, Pacific Rim Hobby; Rick Mathis, Smugglers Landing; Grace Kauffman, Sterling Impressions Photographic; Richard Stephens, an individual membe; and Lumens.
Edna Petersen, owner of the Necessities & Temptations gift shop/department store, cast the lone “no” vote, while Ryan Malane, Black Ball Ferry Line, abstained.
The board has 13 elected members.
Business consultant Jim Haguewood, who has spearheaded the merger effort, held out hope that the downtown association would continue the effort.
“You could look at it and say the final decision is over with,” Haguewood, a former Clallam County Economic Development Council director who attended the meeting Tuesday night at a Smugglers Landing meeting room, said Wednesday.
“I sensed in that room that there were a lot of members of the downtown association that said, ‘Hey, this is better for us, we’ll get more results, get more resources, be a larger group and be stronger.’”
He said plans would proceed for a July 10 meeting at the Red Lion Hotel in Port Angeles to which boards of all three groups have been invited.
There, PA United will present final plans for the consolidation in hopes that memberships of all three groups would approve a merger.
Lumens said his goal is to have the downtown membership vote before July 10.
The boards of both the chamber and business association have voted to continue consolidation efforts.
Lumens said he saw no reason for the downtown association board to attend that meeting given the board’s vote to withdraw.
If the membership votes to consolidate, that could effectively dissolve the board, he said.
Lumens said he is against the association giving up downtown functions such as managing Parking and Business Improvement Area tax proceeds.
Spending of those proceeds would be decided by the City Council if the association is “destroyed” by merging, Lumens said.
He also was fearful it could make downtown ineligible for B&O — business and occupation — tax money the group is now receiving under the state’s Main Street program.
Lumens said the money totaled $54,000 last year.
“It’s all about what we do downtown. It’s all about the mission that we do here,” he said.
“I don’t think it will work.
“I don’t think it’s the right direction for downtown.”
Haguewood said a single umbrella organization would save $47,000 in duplicative administrative and other costs incurred by three different groups and would present a stronger front when, for example, representatives appear before the City Council.
The chamber receives lodging taxes from the City Council, and the downtown association is under contract with the city to receive assessments levied on businesses through the Parking and Business Improvement Area, which entrepreneurs are required to join.
Both groups have been under fire by the city for not meeting “performance outcomes” and for incurring a “redundancy” of administrative costs, Nathan West, the city’s community and economic development director, said Wednesday.
“The other thing the [City] Council has made clear is that the status quo is no longer acceptable,” he added.
“They expect to see changes with the groups they contract with to see more efficient spending and better outcomes.”
Under a draft spending plan, the as-yet-unnamed consolidated organization would administer the Main Street program under the downtown task force but not downtown parking.
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.
More information about PA United is at www.portangelesunited.org.
________Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at [email protected]