BROCKTON – Council approved a mail-out to all members of the Walkerton BIA, to vote on the path forward.
The BIA has undergone a number of challenges over the past year, not the least of which was the pandemic. BIA representatives met with municipal representatives about the possibility of reducing the BIA area, or even dissolving.
An information session on Aug. 18 outlined a number of possibilities. Comments were provided at the information session, and later.
A report by Clerk Fiona Hamilton noted “many of these individuals commented on the resentment felt by many levied members outside of the downtown area who feel that they have no choice but to pay a tax for which they see limited direct benefit as the promotions organized by the BIA (such as the Christmas market, etc.) are targeted more towards specific industries and the downtown location.”
She further noted there has been criticism of BIA board members that has “escalated to the point of harassment” which discourages membership on the board.
Hamilton’s report suggested there’s strong support for a Chamber of Commerce model, which would not require municipal involvement and would be funded through membership fees. However, there was also support for “a well functioning BIA model.”
The BIA board met on Sept. 22 and recommended it remain status quo at this time, with some changes in the staffing and office plan.
BIA members are voting on one of three options – status quo with the same levy, a streamlined BIA with a reduced levy, or dissolving the BIA to allow businesses to organize promotions for their particular businesses.
Coun. Kym Hutcheon said she’d like the “status quo option to include the possibility of lower levy rates if there’s a part-time manager.”
Coun. Steve Adams commended the BIA board members for seeing the business area through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hamilton told council that one possibility is having the BIA contract with a municipal staff person, a model that’s been used successfully in other municipalities.
Although there was some discussion about the possibility of using an electronic means of voting, time was the deciding factor in favour of a conventional mail-out.
Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times