The Ottawa Main Street organization came under fire from the Ottawa City Commission at Monday’s study session.
While funding agreements for Prairie Paws Animal Shelter, Franklin County Development Council, Willow Domestic Violence Center and Elizabeth Layton Center were moved to the regular meeting agenda for approval, funding for the Main Street organization was put on hold as commissioners questioned the timeliness of reports and the lack of a review or audit.
Commissioner Blake Jorgensen questioned the lack of a review or audit which can be requested by the commission. Main Street Director Lenni Giacin said she believed the last review was completed in 2014 but the organization is currently reviewing proposals to conduct a review or audit.
The city currently contributes $30,000 to the organization and Jorgensen believed a review would be sufficient for the city’s purposes.
“Since we are using taxpayer money to give to you and I don’t know, $30,000 on the taxes we collect, I don’t know how many houses it would take to make up $30,000 but it’s a significant amount of money,” Jorgensen said. “I think that a minimum of a review is in order and it’s important that we have that.”
Jorgensen suggested that the funding agreement between the city and Main Street be reduced from a year to six months to allow time for a review to take place.
“I’m a big believer in what the organization does but there are enough questions out there that we need to have that review in place before we go a longer term,” Jorgensen said.
Commissioner Tom Weigand was more critical of the program saying it may be time to consider other options.
“Whenever we look at funding something, we should think about, would we visually write a check for that and expect a return get what we ask for with the check,” he said. “I’m concerned that Main Street has struggled and struggled and struggled and I’ve supported and supported and it is a necessary function you (Main Street) are charged with. I’m just wondering if there is a more efficient way to accomplish what we want to do. Support and expand the quality of services, life and shopping in the downtown core. I don’t think we can go on without considering if we are getting our money’s worth and we’re accomplishing what Main Street should accomplish.”
Weigand suggested that the work of the Main Street organization could possibly be picked up by the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce or the Franklin County Development Council.
“I still think we (City Commission) are supportive of the mission, it’s just how to best get there,” Weigand said.
Giacin said she did not believe the Main Street Association duplicated services provided by other organizations.
“I think the Main Street Association has always looked at how we can help the small businesses in several different ways,” she said. “If we do fundraising it all goes back into the organization. We try not to duplicate services in any way. That’s why we work with other organization to accomplish what we do. If there’s a better way I’m sure we would be open to that and we do appreciate what the city does.”
Commissioner Sara Caylor was critical of the organizations reporting moving forward.
“I want to see better reporting to be quite honest, I want to see timely reporting,” she said.
Funding for Main Street will be addressed again at Monday’s study session and could be voted on at Wednesday’s meeting. The commission agreed to place funding for Prairie Paws, $52,026; Willow Domestic Violence Center, $2,500; Elizabeth Layton, $4,000; and Franklin County Economic Development Council, $65,000, on the Wednesday meeting agenda.
The topic of a financial review or audit by all organizations the city funds was first brought up by Jorgensen at the Jan. 14 study session. Giacin was asked at that meeting when the last audit was completed. She stated Main Street recently switched accounting firms and she would need to check with them. She was not questioned about the timeliness of reports during that meeting.