Alpena DDA board nixes new member, considers cutting seats

ALPENA — The Alpena Downtown Development Authority is allowed by statute to have as many as 12 members on it, but during Tuesday’s meeting, members voting against adding a new member, which would have increased the board to an 11 person entity.

In fact, DDA members gave consideration to trimming the number from the current 10 members to a lower number.

Although the board was not soliciting applicants, local business owner Griffin James submitted an application for consideration. He said that, as the owner of the Local Basket Case for the last seven years, he has discussed the downtown with people who live in Alpena and those who are visiting. He said he believes he has a grasp on what they like about the downtown and what they want to see changed.

After James’ comments to the board, there was discussion about the current make-up of the board and the number of people who are on it. Board member Chad Esch, owner of Bannan Funeral Home, said he has been on many boards over the years and expressed his concerns about boards who have a lot of people on them. He said it was nothing against James, but he couldn’t support adding to the authority at this time.

“Larger boards can become cumbersome and my thought is going from 10 to 11 may only complicate it,” Esch said. “I would much rather see it go back down to a board of nine.”

The City of Alpena is required to have either Mayor Matt Waligora or City Manager Greg Sundin on the board, with Sundin being the choice of the Alpena Municipal Council. Sundin voted in support of James, but also asked Executive Director Anne Gentry to see if there is a minimum that needs to be appointed. He said a smaller board is usually more effective than a larger board and could, in some instances, accomplish more.

“I would maybe like to see it smaller, but still have an odd number of people,” he said. “We wouldn’t have to let people go, but do it by attrition. If someone steps down and a seat becomes open, we just don’t fill it. I don’t know what it legal or not, but we can find out.”

When the DDA doesn’t have all 10 members at a meeting, it still must get at least six votes, a full-board majority, to pass or defeat a motion.

Because there were only six board members at Tuesday’s meeting, Esch’s vote against James was enough for it to fail. The issue could be reintroduced at another meeting, however.

Esch said attendance at committee and full board meetings has been as issue and that is something that needs to be addressed. He said the DDA must find a way to re-energize the board and stress the importance of their participation.

“We need to reengage the board and have it feel committed to being here and remind them of the reasons they need to be here,” Esch said. “Our commitment, board member-wise, is thinning and I think we need to take a look at the number. I don’t like a big board.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or 989-358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.

In other business

The Alpena Downtown Development Authority board on Tuesay also:

∫ hired summer intern Kingsli Kraft as a part-time employee. She will also head-up a new DDA Junior Committee, which will be made up of high school students. The committee will play an active role in proposing and leading projects in downtown and give the youth some ownership of it.

∫ heard from Executive Director Anne Gentry that she has talked to the city about possibly replacing the Christmas lights for downtown and the issue could be addressed at the next regular meeting on Oct. 2.

∫ heard from Alpena Planning and Development Director Adam Poll on city projects, including the new dog park that is now open. He also revealed that a cruise line company is planning on having one of its ships stop in Alpena in October. The U.S. Coast Guard must still sign off on the ship’s arrival and the plans to accommodate it.