Council to discuss funding for DWOW

Published 5:09 am Monday, June 4, 2007

By Staff
Proposed budget calls for group to get $100,000
By MIKE VOSS, Contributing Editor
City funding for Downtown Washington on the Waterfront is on the agenda for the Washington City Council’s budget work session scheduled for 4:30 p.m. today at the Municipal Building.
A dispute over funding for the nonprofit organization, charged with restructuring downtown Washington’s economy and leading redevelopment efforts in the central business district, surfaced last month during a public hearing on the city’s proposed 2007-2008 budget, which begins July 1.
Mayor Judy Meier Jennette, during a brief interview Sunday, said she doesn’t know how the DWOW funding matter may be resolved.
The mayor said she does want the city to earmark some money for improving downtown, but who gets that money is not clear just yet.
That focus could be directed by a private organization such as DWOW or someone who may work for the city, the mayor added.
Meanwhile, the proposed budget recommends DWOW receive $100,000 from the city.
Several years ago, the city agreed to provide $55,000 a year for three years to DWOW. The current fiscal year is the final year of that agreement. Although city officials had been talking about weaning DWOW off city funds by this fiscal year, the proposed budget doesn’t reflect that.
Today’s budget work session is not a public hearing, meaning the council is not required to receive comments from the public. However, DWOW officials are expected to attend today’s session to provide information the council may need as it determines how much, if any, money the city will allocate to DWOW for the upcoming fiscal year.
Some people contend DWOW has done little, if anything, to help improve the city’s central business district.
With the money it’s received from the city and county (a little more than $300,000) in the past three years, DWOW has done nothing to make downtown better, he said at that hearing.
At the hearing, Tomasulo also questioned how much money DWOW has raised to help it carry out its mission.
At that hearing, Dot Moate, DWOW president, disputed Tomasulo’s remarks.
DWOW raised $40,000 last year, she said. DWOW’s books were audited last year, too, she said.
Copies of that audit have been made available to city officials.
City officials have asked DWOW members and members of the merchants’ group to meet and try to work out their differences. Those officials, mainly the mayor and City Manager James C. Smith, have met with DWOW representatives to help facilitate efforts to find ways to end the controversy over funding for DWOW.
Council members, during recent meetings, have indicated that if the city continues to give money to DWOW, they expect some form of accountability from DWOW when it comes to how it spends that money. As Councilman Archie Jennings noted, during the hearing on the budget, some people want the council to step into the funding controversy and “create some accountability.”