Evart DDA to operate another two years

LDFA future yet to be determined

EVART — The Evart Downtown Development Authority will continue to serve the community for another two years.

At the Jan. 20 Evart City Council meeting, the council rejected the recommendation by Evart City Manager Zack Szakacs to dissolve the DDA. Instead, a vote passed 4-0, with council member Casey Keysor absent, to extend the life of the DDA for a two-year period.

"I think it's a great decision," said DDA Director Al Weinberg. "I think what we do for the city far exceeds the benefit of distributing our fund balance to other areas."

Now, the DDA can apply for additional grants, accept grants it has been awarded, and settle plans for both summer and winter events including Musicale and the Christmas Carnival, he added. He believes the programs he and board members help put on each year in the city are doing what they are designed to do — benefit the community.

Evart Mayor Eric Schmidt said he is pleased with the council's decision.

"I believe the DDA is valuable to our Downtown District," he said. "Al Weinberg does a fantastic job to create a welcoming atmosphere for businesses and is always looking for new and inventive ways to bring businesses and shoppers to our downtown."

Schmidt has fully supported the DDA since Szakacs brought up the recommendation to dissolve the entity at the Dec. 2 city council meeting.

While Szakacs believes the DDA most likely run out of funding by the end of June, which ends the fiscal year, Weinberg disagrees based on the DDA's budgetary history.

"We've always been fiscally sound," Weinberg said. "We're trying to be wise stewards of our dollars like always."

In addition, Weinberg believes the financial issues which worried Szakacs are based in speculation, as the vote to approve or reject the elimination of personal property tax will take place in November. The scenario Szakacs presents is the worst case, Weinberg added.

In terms of the DDA's future, Weinberg said he is committed to figuring out the best scenario to make Evart a better place and use the DDA's resources to move the city forward.

Szakacs believes the council meeting was successful for both the council and DDA members who discussed a number of reasons why the entity is valuable at a special meeting that took place on Jan. 8.

"I believe they did a good job at justifying why they should stay," Szakacs said.

Schmidt agreed.

"Al and the DDA Board did a great job explaining their purpose and goals," he said. "The fact that they raise funds above and beyond tax dollars is a huge factor. The DDA is allowed to receive grants that the city cannot, and, the city can receive extra points toward a grant because we have a DDA. There is no guarantee that the captured taxes would stay in the DDA area if they did not exist."

As for the future of the Local Development Finance Authority, council members tabled discussion and action and are expected to make a decision at a future meeting. Schmidt and Szakacs said LDFA documents including those stating its 15-year plan need to be located before going forward.