2010-06-27 / Front & Center

Lapeer city commission okays DDA budget

BY PHIL FOLEY
810-452-2616 • pfoley@mihomepaper.com

LAPEER — A week after approving the rest of the city’s spending plans for the coming year, the Lapeer City Commission voted to approve the Downtown Development Authority’s (DDA) 2010-11 budget and put one of the DDA’s more vocal critics on its board.

Commission members, especially Mike Robinet, have been upset over the relocation of Lapeer Celebrates the Arts from downtown. Robinet has been highly critical of the downtown’s vacancy rate.

DDA Treasurer Pat Cronin presented a budget 27.4 percent smaller than its 2009-10 budget. A large part of the budget shrink, said Cronin, was the completion of the Lapeer Center for the Arts’ elevator project, which cost $60,566.

“Everything else is relatively consistent,” he said.

He noted the funds set aside for the PIX Arts Council and the Downtown Business Association “remain unchanged, they are on notice that if we have another year like we had there might be some others changes coming.”

On the bright side, Cronin noted the DDA has only one annual payment left on its CIP bond. The means the DDA will have an additional $27,140 available in its next budget cycle.

Cronin praised DDA Executive Director Carolyn McCarter for “the excellent way she treats that budget. She treats that money as if it were her own. If she doesn’t have to spend money, she doesn’t.”

McCarter presented commissioners with the bullet point memo outlining the DDA’s response to the Sunrise Kiwanis’ decision to move its Lapeer Celebrates the Arts event out of the downtown to the Chatfield School campus area.

Commission A. Wayne Bennett said one of the reasons he’d been unhappy with the DDA was the art festival’s move. “I didn’t understand at the time that it wasn’t you who moved it.”

After reading the memo, commission members approved the budget without further discussion.

Later in the meeting Mayor Bill Sprague nominated Commissioner Mike Robinet to a vacant seat on the DDA board.

“It would be an honor to be on the board,” said Robinet, noting that he’d served on the DDA board for 15 years previously. However, he added, “I don’t want the commissioners thinking they can’t complain about somebody without being appointed to their board.”

Robinet has been highly critical of the high vacancy rate downtown.

He told commissioners that while he’s willing to serve on the DDA board, as a retiree he normally schedules his meetings for the first half of the month in order to travel with his wife the rest of the time. “Those meetings are on the last Thursday of the month. I’ll be more than happy to attend, if I’m here, but I am not going to cancel my vacations.”

Bennett said he would gladly step in for Robinet when he’s out of town.

Robinet said he didn’t have a problem with the DDA’s budget, but he does have a problem with activities moving out of downtown and what he sees as a lack of effort in recruiting new business to the area.

“I do have a problem that we don’t have someone fulltime. Carolyn has no time to be executive director of the DDA. She runs an arts center full time, more than full-time, she’s down there all the time and we need someone that can spend the time, even if the city has to throw in something.”

“Let me assure you,” Sprague told Robinet, “this is an appointment by myself. The only reason that you were appointed to the DDA was not the fact that you complained at the last meeting. I’ve known you for 16 or 15 years and you’ve spoken eloquently with a passion about the downtown and you’ve always said you wanted to do something and the group with the most impact is the DDA and that’s why I wanted you there.”

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