LIMA — Downtown Lima business owners concerned with the condition of the Town Square streetscaping voiced their support Tuesday for a line item in Lima’s proposed 2013 budget designed to address upkeep and repair.
Not all members of Lima City Council’s finance committee, however, are convinced that the more than $46,0o0 requested by city administration for the work is a wise investment. The business owners, however, see the streetscape and the more than $35,000 requested for Downtown Lima Inc. as vital to driving business growth in the downtown.
“Downtown Lima Inc. was instrumental in getting my business started and supporting my business. I guess I see them as a driver of economic development, which is really something that can put people in buildings downtown, which adds to the budget going forward in years down the road,” said Jennifer Brogee, co-owner of The Meeting Place on Market. “In terms of streetscape maintenance, we were unsure if that meant sidewalk maintenance or just weeding things like that. Just making Town Square look good I think is important.”
Kurt Neeper, 1st Ward councilor, questioned the need for the additional appropriation.
“I think ultimately we’re going to need to refer it to a committee. I can’t say I’m the least bit surprised Downtown Lima supports it, pretty much anything this administration has put forth in terms of ideas the last three years in my time on council they have supported,” Neeper said. “It doesn’t surprise me. This is a group that didn’t want their individual businesses to have to pay for the streetscape. Now they don’t want to pay to help maintain the streetscape.
“At a certain point in time, while I respect downtown businesses and certainly encourage development in the area, I do think we have to take a look back and say who’s responsible for this. We’re not fixing sidewalks on different streets throughout the city, certainly not in my ward, the 1st ward, for businesses. Why are we doing it for downtown businesses?”
Public Works Director Howard Elstro told members of the finance committee his department doesn’t have the manpower to address the issues with current funding levels. Elstro said the additional money would be used to fund a full-time position to address the streetscape concerns, particularly during the spring, summer and fall.
Marc Bowker, owner of Alter Ego Comics, said there is a definite need.
“I don’t know if it’s the downtown business owners' place to decide how many hours it’s going to take and how much money it’s going to take, but I think we’ll all agree it’s something that’s necessary,” Bowker said. “We’re seeing more and more businesses open downtown. We’re seeing more people downtown, and we’re trying to encourage more traffic downtown, and without a clean downtown area we’re going to be facing problems.
“Is the line item important? Absolutely. What that dollar amount is and what that person is responsible for, I don’t know if that’s something we need to decide. That’s something you folks need to decide.”