MAD to retain service district contract

By Tom Joyce -

Mount Airy Downtown Inc. (MAD) will continue managing activities in the city’s central business district using proceeds from a special tax levied there, after no other organization vied for that role.

MAD has been awarded a contract to provide “enhanced services” to maintain the vitality of the downtown municipal service district (MSD) for the 2016-17 fiscal year, which begins Friday. The contract was approved 5-0 by the city Board of Commissioners during a recent meeting.

This ensures there will be no changing of the guard come Friday, although that had been in question due to a new legislative requirement. A law passed last September by the N.C. General Assembly changed the process by which cities contract with private agencies to spearhead activities within municipal service districts, which are established to provide special levels of service to particular areas of towns.

City Attorney Hugh Campbell has described that legislation as a budget-minded measure that seeks to ensure the proper expenditure of and accountability for public dollars generated from service district taxes. This includes specifying the purposes for which district monies are used.

The new legislation led to Mount Airy’s MSD contract being advertised on the open market for the first time, with the municipality inviting proposals from any other non-profit group with experience in the field to partner with the city government.

However, no others came forward to vie for the contract other than Mount Airy Downtown Inc., according to city Manager Barbara Jones.

Jones told the commissioners during the recent meeting that the actual agreement with MAD hadn’t been completed, but subsequent to the 5-0 vote she and Campbell would complete the agreement and bring it back to them at a later date.

Mount Airy’s service district tax is paid in addition to regular property taxes, and is levied at a rate of 21 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, which is projected to result in appropriations of $82,000 for 2016-2017.

The extra tax on properties in the district has been in place for decades, with funds being used for common infrastructure needs such as parking lots.

Mount Airy Downtown Inc. has a coordinator, Lizzie Morrison, with oversight provided by a board of directors.

MAD goals

The Mount Airy Downtown Inc. budget for this (2015-2016) fiscal year included total revenue of $78,300.

Its chief expenditure was personnel costs of $52,000.

In seeking to further its missions of economic development, downtown residential expansion and other enhancements in the central business district, MAD has developed a 2016-2017 annual plan. Among its goals are:

• Creating a plan for a downtown farmers market, with a permanent structure, by December 2016.

• Recruiting one new business that offers music venue and/or art space by July 2017, to increase “night-life” opportunities.

• Using design services of the North Carolina Main Street Program, of which Mount Airy is a member, to develop an upper-story residential concept for one building downtown by July 2017. This is part of an overall objective of increasing the downtown residential base by 30 people over an 18-month period.

• Working with the city government and other interested parties to develop a new “wayfaring plan” to help guide visitors in the downtown area by July 2017.

• Recruiting three new and unique retail shops and one new restaurant offering different cuisine than anything now available downtown.

• Working toward completing a design improvement project for a retaining wall on West Oak Street by the spring of 2018.

In the past fiscal year, a net gain of three downtown businesses was recorded, along with five business expansions, according to a breakdown from MAD. A net gain of 12 full-time and six part-time jobs occurred.

Also, eight building facades were redone, six building rehabilitation projects occurred, and one public improvement project was completed.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

By Tom Joyce

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