By Pat Maurer
Rumor has it that the Clare Main Street Program will soon be eliminated.
Clare City Manager Ken Hibl said that a decision to eliminate the program is possible because not enough funds are being generated to support a full time Main Street Manager, a requirement to keep the program.
Hibl said Clare’s Main Street Program is a selected, qualified, and certified National Master Level Main Street Program – one of only seven Master Level Programs currently in the state. The Program is formally evaluated by Lansing annually. To maintain eligibility as a certified Main Street Community, one of the mandatory requirements is to employ a full-time Main Street Manager. Clare’s cost to maintain a full-time Main Street Manager is approximately $60K annually (includes wages, health insurance costs, office costs, mandated national and state training costs, etc.).
He said, “My personal opinion is that our Main Street Program has been a tremendous asset for this community and has attained status as one of the best Programs in the state…we are consistently used as an example by Lansing and commonly receive calls from municipalities around the state asking for advice on how to accomplish all we have accomplished. We have not officially shared the news with Lansing that we are considering resignation from the Program. And while it has not ‘officially’ been decided that we will do so, the balance sheet provides us little option unless someone comes forward and writes the Clare Main Street Program a big check.”
He stressed, “No formal decision has yet been made related to the elimination of the program – any such decision would have to be made by two specific entities: the Clare Main Street Board/Clare Downtown Development Authority and the Clare City Commission, and neither of these governing bodies have formally considered or made that decision.”
He continued, “The Main Street Board and the Clare Downtown Development Authority (DDA) commenced detailed and recurring discussions regarding the future of the Main Street Program nearly two years ago when it was evident that DDA revenue, which is the primary revenue source for funding Clare’s Main Street Program, was diminishing and would not be adequate to singularly sustain the Program for more than an estimated two to three years without supplementation from other revenue sources.”
The Clare Main Street Board and DDA decided that the program had “great value to the community and was definitely worth preserving,” Hibl said. “They decided to renew efforts to find additional revenues and developed several including the Irish trip Raffle, Farmer’s Market, and Pumpkin Run.”
“But it appears clear these programs will not be sufficient to guarantee the future of the Main Street Program,” Hibl said. “So when the Executive Director of the Clare Area Chamber of Commerce coincidentally announced her resignation, the Strategic Planning Committee of the Clare Area Chamber of Commerce, which includes members of the Clare DDA and Main Street Board, suggested it may be an opportune time to evaluate whether the community could benefit from the Main Street model, which is a four-committee (Promotion, Design, Organization, and Economic Restructuring) approach to developing and sustaining vibrant and successful communities, without retaining its status as a certified Main Street Community.”
A Working Group consisting of members of the Clare City Commission, the Clare Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, the Clare Main Street Board/Clare Downtown Development Authority, and the Clare Area Arts Council was formed to evaluate the possibility of a new community organizational structure that incorporates the principles of the Main Street Program without the cost and structure required to retain its status as a certified Main Street Community, Hibl said.
He said the group met September 17th and asked that each of the organizations of the Group appoint two of their organization members to a sub-committee which will develop recommendations for the distribution of tasks and functions of a potential new community organization that could replace the current Main Street Program in Clare.
The sub-committee will likely meet within the next week to begin work and develop recommendations to the full Working Group, which will in turn make its recommendations to the Main Street Board/DDA, Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Arts Council, and to the City Commission.
He added that despite any recommendation the Main Street Board and/or the Clare City Commission could make their own decisions about the future of Clare’s status as a certified Main Street Community. “A decision would first be made by the Main Street Board and then forwarded to the Clare City Commission for final decision,” Hibl said. A decision to relinquish Clare’s status as a certified Main Street Community “will not adversely affect the Clare Downtown Development Authority,” he added. “However, if such a decision is made, the Clare Main Street Board would be disbanded.”
The informal goal of the Working Group is to have its work completed by the end of October, Hibl said.