BRADENTON -- With about two weeks left before the Bradenton City Council assumes control of the city's three Community Redevelopment Agencies, the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority met for the final time Tuesday as the overseers of the Bradenton and 14th Street West CRAs.
The city council voted in June to take control of the CRAs. The public, as well as the Central Community Redevelopment Agency and DDA members, expressed uncertainty at the council's lack of an overall plan. There have been tentative plans expressed by council members Bemis Smith and Patrick Roff, but by law the council's hands have been tied in taking official action until the Jan. 1 transition.
For the first time since those meetings took place over the summer, the full city council attended the DDA's meeting. The DDA will remain intact, although the city council will assume control of its spending in the next budget cycle. The DDA will focus solely on downtown redevelopment efforts but also will act as an advisory board for the two CRAs it has overseen. Smith encouraged them to continue with their work.
"I think we are at a critical juncture and need a board focused on the whole of downtown, and I am going to work on expanding the DDA boundaries to create economic development in the downtown," said Smith. "You've done a great job and I'll be promoting funding from the CRAs and the city council to have what I consider to be substantial funding for the DDA so you can continue to focus on your projects."
How much funding the DDA will receive from the city remains unclear. Smith said early on that a tentative figure would be around $250,000.
City Clerk Carl Callahan, who is acting as the DDA's director after Dave Gustafson's resignation in October, said it is difficult to put an exact figure on how much the DDA will receive. The city council, as the Bradenton CRA board, will handle budget matters next year. The estimated $250,000 will be for DDA projects.
During the uncertainty of the council's decision to assume control, some DDA board members questioned the need to remain, but it appears most will. Vice Chairwoman Jayne Kocher and board member Kerry Ward will be reappointed at Wednesday's city council meeting. Only board member Greg Green is resigning after nine years on the board, but he said it had nothing to do with the transition.
"It's been an honor and a privilege to serve with everyone here and do all we were able to do," said Green. "I kind of like to impose a personal term limit when I serve on a board and it's usually six years, but this board has been so much fun."
As Jan. 1 approaches, Callahan said it's not just the physical makeup of the boards that is going to change.
"The city council won't be able to just think in dollars and cents anymore," he said. "They will have to flip their hats some and think entrepreneurial. That's why the DDA will remain invaluable to them."
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter@urbanmark2014.