Wasting Time, Money And…

 

Think about the negligent planning from all those people you’ve elected to make the right decisions and tough choices for your community, what about all those wasted years? Take a good look around, I can assure you it’s not that pretty. Who thought it a good idea to plant the Department of Public Works (DPW) smack dab (focal point) in downtown Blissfield? The DPW is the grey, round top drive shed in the center of the picture. They often have mounds of gravel etc. that are also visible from the highway. How many officials over the years thought it was a good thing to leave it there?

 

Who’s in Charge?

 

This is what we should have expected the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) to accomplish. Judge for yourself what has actually been accomplished. It’s your taxpaying money they are using, what are you getting for it? Read the actual act below and visit the Michigan Legislature because you don’t want to be taking anyone’s word for anything.

DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY
Act 197 of 1975
AN ACT to provide for the establishment of a downtown development authority; to prescribe its powers and duties; to correct and prevent deterioration in business districts; to encourage historic preservation; to authorize the acquisition and disposal of interests in real and personal property; to authorize the creation and implementation of development plans in the districts; to promote the economic growth of the districts; to create a board; to prescribe its powers and duties; to authorize the levy and collection of taxes; to authorize the issuance of bonds and other evidences of indebtedness; to authorize the use of tax increment financing; to reimburse downtown development authorities for certain losses of tax increment revenues; and to prescribe the powers and duties of certain state officials.

Did You Know…

Despite the restrictive sound of the title, one would automatically think the word downtown actually meant ‘just the downtown’. The DDA captures up to 18 mills property and business tax from the entire commercial district in Blissfield as depicted by the shaded area of the map below.* For those outlying businesses…surprise, they were supposed to be looking after you too, you’re in the downtown district!  

* Apparently there is dispute over what they actually collect, however nothing can be confirmed at this point due to an inability to find their financial information listed anywhere, even though the law states other wise.

          

Perhaps you can get better information than I because whenever I have brought up some of the issues, problems or perceived mistakes, I got excuses and blame shifting as a response. The planning department can blame council, council can blame MDOT…etc, nobody is responsible in the end.

The Blissfield DDA was established in 1992, we should have a pretty great looking, vibrant downtown by this time. Have they prevented or corrected deterioration in the business districts? Did they encourage historical preservation? Does promoting the economic growth of the district mean planting flowers and hire someone to maintain them? If you are any of these people or these people are you’re friends, take a big step back and take a good long objective look. Our Village doesn’t look so good. 

For another indication how the DDA is doing just browse their website and find they’ve done little updating to their website since 2005, unless they had no “visioning” past 2002. Maybe they’ve made a bit more effort since my 2nd post. The website was top of the line when it was built and probably cost about $3,000.00. If they spend money they can take credit for it. You don’t neglect the maintenance and upkeep (maybe they don’t do windows) or maybe they don’t really care.

Did You Also Know;

Our DDA Board are contacting other districts to find out how they can get around the Law in order to change board members compensation? They are looking for their positions to be paid. The DDA act states; “Members of the board shall serve without compensation, but shall be reimbursed for actual and necessary expenses.” Check out section 125.1654 Sec. 4.(1) second last sentence.

The good news is that the DDA can be dissolved. Instead of having a DDA or a Chamber of Commerce (because that didn’t work out either) why not have a Business Association. It is possible, and it’s also possible to set it up to be abuse proof…imagine the possibilities.

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21 Responses to Wasting Time, Money And…

  1. You’ve got some silly fixation with the DDA because they wouldn’t give you the Michigan Main Street job months before the village was even approved for the program. Now you’re acting as DDA watchdog. The problem is, you’re facts aren’t in order and your expectations are ridiculous. The DDA does not collect 18 mills on the DDA district. The DDA collects taxes on the increased property values. So, if a building in the district was worth $100,000 in 92 and worth $125,000 today, the DDA collects the taxes on the $25,000 increase.
    Your interpretation of the facts is misleading if not outright dishonest. You make it sound as if the DDA is awash in money and doing nothing with it. The truth is that the DDA budget is fairly small and that much of it goes toward paying on the parking lot debt. There have been facade projects available to building owners. And they have helped improve the appearance of downtown. Other than that, there really isn’t much money.
    The reason why downtown isn’t flourishing is because the businesses aren’t thriving. I suppose a disgruntled business owner could blame the DDA for its troubles. But they might as well be blaming the price of asparagus, because they have about the same impact.

    The downtown district will not flourish until the business owners and property owners find a way to make it flourish. The DDA can help the owners make it happen, but it can’t lead the way.

    As long as the downtown core is filled with dusty and weathered businesses that open and close whenever they want, we won’t see any improvements on South Lane Street.

    • Robin says:

      So the DDA does not pass go and does not collect $200.00?
      What you’re saying is the DDA had no money (no operating budget) until they paved a parking lot (about 10 years ago). At that time it started taking taxes from the increased value after the lot was beautified.

      The DDA collects taxes on a forecasted value of the property for up to 30 years. Meanwhile those taxes are not going to services like Police, water & sewer, libraries and schools. Because those services are not collecting these taxes they become underfunded and our taxes have to be raised again to pay for the services and the beautified parking lot. The parking lot scaping would undoubtedly deteriorated close to the pre paving state by the time the project is paid for, thus reducing its value again. Tiffs were set up as a genius way to develop without raising taxes but they actually raise taxes. The reality was TIFF prevented the taxpayer from connecting the dots. What happens when property values fall after too generous increase in a forecasted value?

      I didn’t say the DDA collects 18 mills, I said up to 18 mills, that and more can actually be levied because the DDA has the authority to. If the DDA does not collect a dime or have transferred or appropriated in any way, property or business taxes then perhaps to avoid confusion the DDA should be making their financials available to the public as stated in the DDA act197 of1975 Section 125.1654(5) All expense items of the authority shall be publicized monthly and the financial records shall always be open to the public.

      “You make it sound as if the DDA is awash in money” – you perceived it to sound as if; however, if the budget is fairly small and much of it goes toward paying a debt…why are the board members currently in pursuit of getting a paycheck? Minimizing an issue will not benefit anyone; “a disgruntled business” means one, which would lead people to believe only one business in Blissfield doesn’t appreciate the maligned DDA.

      I blame the DDA for not doing what their job (see DDA act for description) was since 1992 and I have found out some people awfully high on their horses as public servants that are directly responsible for throwing their weight around and damaging relationships and trust with business owners. Attitudes, manipulation and sabotage I’ve witnessed are another huge roadblock that has stood in the way of forward movement. The DDA could very well have led the way.

      Hiring a director when they could have handsomely capitalized on spring weather was indeed a good idea. That wasn’t the only idea I threw out there, nor was it the last one I’ll ever have. Whatever you do don’t entertain for a minute someone feeling some hinky stuff going on and acting on it is what the deal is, maybe the DDA needs a watchdog.

      • There isn’t a DDA in Michigan that levies a millage. The Blissfield DDA doesn’t have a millage.

        You’re clueless and perhaps a little deranged. Stop acting like the DDA and the village is in on some scam when you don’t have the foggiest idea about how government works.

        Isn’t it odd that someone who applied for a new taxpayer funded job is now on a clueless crusade against everything paid for by taxes?

        • Robin says:

          What’s even funnier is I trusted myself the most to make sure the position was self funding and actually bring revenue to the community. You can easily track down and verify that information, I have stated it numerous times to numerous people and I also think it was included in my 7 page proposal. I’m not against everything paid for by taxes, there would be no government without taxes and government is a necessary evil.

          I am impressed that you know the source of revenue for every DDA in Michigan. If I’m clueless it would be nice if you took the opportunity to educate me nicely. When a lesson is performed condescendingly it tells people you think they’re stupid and they don’t really deserve the information. Similarly if you feel they’re stupid, don’t you think they detect it? Someone was kind enough to explain it to you. I have not purported myself an expert on government, please read the “About” page. I would find it very helpful though if the DDA would make their financials available to the public as stated in the DDA act 197 of 1975 Section 125.1654(5) All expense items of the authority shall be publicized monthly and the financial records shall always be open to the public.

          I could very well have misunderstood the Department of Treasury, their website states this; DDA mills are levied within the district boundaries.

          DDAs and TIFAs capture property taxes within the plan boundaries.

          The increase in forecasted values and collecting taxes on that for up to thirty years was referring to development projects like the parking lot paving and beautification. You’re saying that the DDA’s operating budget is strictly comprised of just capturing taxes on the amount of the property value increase every year since 1992 within the DDA district, right? That still means the portion of taxes collected for services have stagnated since 1992 but the portion for the DDA increases every year (as expected with property value). I would also like to know what happens when the forecasted value ends up to be lower than the budget? How does the DDA adjust their already spent budget?

          I do strive to be factually correct, thanks for the info.

          • Robin says:

            I have found this from Northville Michigan, “Budget
            The DDA currently uses several sources of revenue to fund its programs and projects. These include Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and a 2-mill property tax on all property within the district. The DDA’s annual budget is approved by City Council. http://www.downtownnorthville.com/1/163/dda_board.asp

            This article talks about a more fair 1 millage levy – TR DDA recommends one-mill levy in entire DDA district instead of two mills for a small portion of the district. http://www.rivercountryjournal.com/?p=28301

            Here’s another article that lays out the revenue sources of Gaylord Michigan – “The revenue stream for the DDA is from taxes levied annually on dozens of businesses within downtown Gaylord, including about $45,000 from a special millage and $550,000 from tax increment financing (TIF) funds. http://record-eagle.com/local/x75043270/Gaylord-agency-missing-200-000

            These are only three examples to show in fact that there are DDA’s in Michigan that does levy millages.

  2. Guess Who says:

    I forgot one thing that I would like to mention. If you have a husband and wife both on the DDA Board isn’t that a conflict of interest? It seems to me like that’s 2 yes votes or 2 no votes. You have Jae and Deb on the board now and then I just heard Darlene Southward may try to get on the board so that would mean Darlene and Lynn on the board. I am sorry but I think having 2 married couples on the Board is a conflict of interest. In fact I think any married couples should not be on the same Board. At one time Jae stepped down because he said it was a conflict of interest because his wife was on the DDA Board. He said he would just fill in the position until they found someone. Haven’t they found anyone yet. It’s been months.

  3. Robin says:

    Jae is the President of the village, he is head of the council and as such head of the DDA so he is essentially sitting twice on the council and twice on the DDA. If Jae’s wife is on DDA board as well then he is sitting three times. If Darlene sits on the same board her husband is chairing…c’mon, who are we kidding, why not just send everyone else home and call it the “Guetschow/Southward Club”

    Jae has also taken up the Director position of the Chamber of Commerce and the village administrator Jim Wonacott is on that board too. HECK YES, we are overwrought with conflicts of interest, in fact the word nepotism comes to mind.

    It would be interesting to find out why we have so many open positions.

    • Sandy Meeks says:

      Robin: I cannot let this one go w/o commenting on it. The person who pointed out the difficulty getting interested people to serve on the boards and committees needed to keep the Village running was right. And yes, there are some duplication of families on Blissfield’s committees. But, they are very hard working people w/ great ideas and much enthusiasm. I feel confident that any one of them has enough moral character to abstain when there comes an issue that would appear to be self-serving. I’ve seen it happen. You all should come to a council meeting to watch the people you voted in who never have anything to say. You’d be shocked ! Sandy Meeks (okay to use my name, Robin)

      • Robin says:

        I’m glad you couldn’t let at least one go without commenting. I agree more people should be going to the meetings, I’d love to see it.

        Are the reasons there is difficulty getting people interested because derogatory, unethical practices have been involved, like exclusion, ostracizing, demeaning or manipulation?

        If public perception and trust is at all considered important, I would suggest not advocating duplication of board members by selecting multiple family members either, whether you have filled all open positions or not. Hard working with ideas and enthusiasm isn’t a qualified trade off for ethics. “Enough moral character to abstain” – your interpretation may be different than mine with that statement, I’m sure it’s covered by the board’s code of ethics. The board does have a written code of ethics, doesn’t it? Hopefully you can tell me where I can get a copy; it should have a number of points with one reading something like this;

        10. The board of directors must act at all times in the best interests of the association and not for personal or third-party gain or financial enrichment. When encountering potential conflicts of interest, board members will identify the conflict and, as required, remove themselves from all discussion and voting on the matter. Specifically, board members shall follow these guidelines:

        ◦ Avoid placing (and avoid the appearance of placing) one’s own self-interest or any third-party interest above that of the association; while the receipt of incidental personal or third-party benefit may necessarily flow from certain association activities, such benefit must be merely incidental to the primary benefit to the association and its purposes;

        ◦ Do not abuse board membership by improperly using board membership or the association’s staff, services, equipment, resources, or property for personal or third-party gain or pleasure; board members shall not represent to third parties that their authority as a board member extends any further than that which it actually extends;

        ◦ Do not engage in any outside business, professional or other activities that would directly or indirectly materially adversely affect the association;

        ◦ Do not engage in or facilitate any discriminatory or harassing behavior directed toward association staff, members, officers, directors, meeting attendees, exhibitors, advertisers, sponsors, suppliers, contractors, or others in the context of activities relating to the association;

        ◦ Do not solicit or accept gifts, gratuities, free trips, honoraria, personal property, or any other item of value from any person or entity as a direct or indirect inducement to provide special treatment to such donor with respect to matters pertaining to the association without fully disclosing such items to the board of directors; and

        ◦ Provide goods or services to the association as a paid vendor to the association only after full disclosure to, and with advance approval by, the board, and pursuant to any related procedures adopted by the board.

  4. Dirty But Nice says:

    This is in response to Nunya Beezwacks about the following comment you made.
    Your comment below.
    As long as the downtown core is filled with dusty and weathered businesses that open and close whenever they want, we won’t see any improvements on South Lane Street.

    I agree 100 percent on that comment. What I don’t understand why are they allowing these people who owns these buildings remain on the DDA Board. They also allowed one of these guilty persons make a presentation for Main Street.
    We all know who these businesses are-The Quilt Shop-The General Store-The Pack Rat is never open in the winter-What’s going on at Cake and Shakes and Royal Expressions-the fire was in Feb. what a eyesore that has been. They say they are going to rebuild but when. Do we need to go to court like they did with the cannery so we can get the eyesores torn down? Or maybe they need to consider putting the buildings up for auction like the cannery and maybe the village can buy them cheap.
    Oops I am sorry our president already owns one of them.

    • Robin says:

      The downtown core isn’t filled with dusty and weathered businesses; there are at least 10 vacant buildings out of about 20, the remaining are not all Antique shops. Furthermore, using the term dusty and weathered is only proving the derogatory, arrogant attitudes that are part of, or the cause of the problem.

      Don’t you also think deciding whether or not someone should be on the DDA board based on store hours is discriminatory? I hope you’re not advocating the board should be made up of all like minded individuals, if so what’s the sense of having a board? Who’s responsible for creating and maintaining a productive, positive business climate?

  5. innocent bystander says:

    You’re going to have conflicts of interest of this nature in a small town.
    People aren’t lining up to fill these positions. If you wish to be involved, do so. It’s quite simple. Just don’t start throwing grenades at people who are also trying to do work for their community.

    About conflicts of interest and Jae Guetschow. One might imagine that he will apply for this Main Street job. He’s studying public administration, which is probably an area of study that fits with the Main Street model. He would have to resign as Village President obviously. But it would throw into question his cheerleading of this project from the onset.

    Keep an eye out for this potential development.

    • Robin says:

      There’s a reason people aren’t lining up to fill these positions and if there are open positions…leave them open. It’s more acceptable to have one less than double occupied or tag teamed. Are you talking about the grenades being thrown at the people trying to get involved and do work for their community?

      • innocent bystander says:

        Like I said, it’s a small town.
        Can you tell me what is the actual concern about a husband and wife on the same board?
        Can you tell me how its potentially harmful to the interest of citizens or taxpayers of a husband and wife are on the same board?
        How is it different, in this respect, than having two good friends on a board?
        It isn’t.
        But it’s something quick and easy to complain about.

        • Robin says:

          With a husband and wife serving on the same board there is greater chance for internal coercion. A husband can apply pressure to a wife in various unique ways and a wife can apply pressure to a husband in various unique ways that a best friend cannot.

          You could easily see how the coercion could still be exercised even if the husband and wife served on two different boards if those boards were connected. The one married party can help fulfill the others agenda.

          The harm – obliterates the whole purpose of having a board because a husband and wife are more likely to support each other with hidden agendas and stated agendas. If strong arm techniques or bullying is occurring to sway votes, a husband and wife (already considered a team) is more persuasive than a singular bully. Because of the increased potential for abuse, just allowing this scenario to be implemented creates mistrust, losing trust and credibility for the entire board, from the members and from the taxpaying public.

          In the case of the existing Board Chair, it is already widely known and has been openly stated to me as such by others of which I have also personally witnessed that he is fiercely loyal to his wife. The chances that two friends support each other exclusively is great, although not an optimal value for the board, I imagine it more difficult to avoid than allowing a husband and wife team. If the value of the board was important, I would think the Chair (impartiality is critical) and other members would address an exclusive alliance if it existed.

          I don’t think it’s something quick and easy to complain about at all.

      • Logan says:

        Could it be that more people don’t get involved with the
        DDA because they are not heard if they don’t “go along” with the DDA Board. Our local businesses had a great spokesperson for us that has now retired and moved south, and it didn’t appear as if her work/suggestions had any weight with the group.

        • Robin says:

          If they only hear echo’s and independent idea’s are not heard, one would be considered as serving for the appearance not the purpose, a ruse if you will, or more commonly termed as “for human consumption”. I have also come to the conclusion the Michigan Main Street Director will suffer the same affliction as your great spokesperson…weightless. Further analysis about that will be in another post.

          Thanks for visiting and weighing in!

  6. Annie says:

    C’mon! If you don’t agree with those who do believe or trust in this blog, then leave us alone. Nobody is forcing you to read this blog. Good Grief, are we “adults” acting more like “teenagers” in High School? Name calling…brutal emailings…mail…heck, fly a plane over the village skywriting it all?

    • Robin says:

      There’s a more harmonious, positive outcome when people have the chance to engage in honest debate and discussion, whether their position gets adopted or not, they at least feel they were heard and respected. I’m glad to see you’ve got your big girl pants on!

  7. Shawn Ellison says:

    Looking at these comments is sad. I am the son of Kathy Valdez (owner of Cakes n’ Shakes). I do not live in Blissfield, but have always been impressed that the town continues to thrive. I certainly know that it is not perfect and would love to see some changes. It seems that working together, even with disagreements, would be much more beneficial to the future of Blissfield. Including Cakes n’ Shakes in your argument is wrong. You are putting down a person that believes in Blissfield and is rebuilding the store because of the history behind the building and what it means to the residents of Blissfield. If the town as a whole really preferred for the building to be torn down Kathy and Bob Valdez would fulfill those wishes. I handle all the finances for the business and can say her best choice financially would be to tear it down. I have even encouraged her to do so. I stress again, she is committed to helping Blissfield be a successful small town so she is dealing with the hassle of dealing with rebuilding. Obviously the individual that commented about tearing the building down has never had to deal with such an undertaking. Tearing down downtown buildings will not help Blissfield. It will most certainly hurt it. Empty lots do not bring people to town. I assume an apology will be submitted now for Royal Expressions because construction has begun. Cakes n’ Shakes construction will begin as soon as all of the hurdles are overcome, currently the Lenawee County Health Department. One hurdle the other buildings did not have to get over. I realize that this post does not help your public battle that you have going, but the public deserves to hear the truth. I would very much appreciate people not including information about matters they do not know about. I would be happy to answer any questions regarding the building of Cakes n’ Shakes. Email: blissfieldsweets@yahoo.com I also try to keep people updated via Cakes n’ Shakes on facebook.

    • Robin says:

      Shawn, first I would like to extend my condolences to Kathy and Bob and the Valdez family for the loss they were forced into experiencing regarding the fire and then dealing with another unfortunate sequence of events through the rebuild process.

      I agree with your sentiment (I believe most of Blissfield does too) that tearing down buildings is not the preferred route and respect/applaud Kathy’s decision to restore the building and continue operating a business, her investment benefits everyone living here. Your post certainly does help by providing critical information, on an open discussion format. If no discussion exists regarding issues, discovering attitudes and identifying obstacles to address how could we possibly put ourselves on a better path to move forward? I’m not a proponent of sticking heads in the proverbial sand, let’s address the negative instead of ignoring it, hence allowing it to continue. I feel we as a community have not given enough support where it’s productive but too much support given to underground misinformation, misguided resentment and a host of ugly stuff. You’re absolutely correct – the only way we will accomplish anything worthwhile and enduring is by working together.

      Even if something starts out as a wrong opinion, at least the opportunity exists for the right information to be disseminated. Thanks for taking the time to contribute and setting the record straight.

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