Council gives HUSA 90 days to prove reliablilty
HUSA submitted an annual report to the council at its June 4 regular meeting, detailing the organizations entire budget, goals and accomplishments over the past fiscal year.
According to HUSA’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year, its annual assessment income is $17,000. Coupled with the $30,342 in HUSA’s account, the organization is proposed to have $47,842 available for its budget.
The budget also said the total operating expenses of HUSA is $5,081. The budget also states that HUSA plans to spend some of the money it has allocated on annual events such as the Magical Country Christmas, Safe and Sane Halloween, Fall Crafters Faire and the upcoming Main Street Cruise on June 28.
The majority of the accumulated money is for parking and improvement projects. Some of those projects include the re-striping of South Lassen Street, the addition of banners, kiosks, trash bins and benches. Improvements and events amount to HUSA planning on spending $45,810 in the coming year.
The council approved the report and budget under the stipulation that there would be extensive discussion about HUSA during the public hearing. Community Development Director Bill Nebeker said the city receives 2 percent of HUSA’s assessments for city staff reimbursement. He also said the roughly $349 the city collects from the reimbursements is nowhere near the amount the city spends to actually collect those assessments.
“I think its almost to the point that this council should ask for a total evaluation of HUSA,” said councilmember Lino Callegari, “and get all of its members to come before us once and for all, so they can either speak up or not speak up. I know it was a good operation when it was functioning, but it has a lot of dissention out here, and I think we have to listen to the business community as a whole. I think they have to be held accountable.”
Councilmember Joe Franco also said he felt that HUSA’s communication problems weren’t going to be fixed within 90 days.
Deborah Cleveland, owner of Picture Perfect, and Blake Huhtula, owner of the Elegant Iris and Men’s Den, spoke against HUSA’s assessments being passed, citing how the assessments for businesses in HUSA should be voluntary.
“I’ve been in business for 15 years here, and I’ve been an active member on the HUSA board,” Cleveland said. “After reading the annual report, I got to say I had to laugh. As far as I’m concerned, absolutely nothing was done last year, and as far as the objectives for next year, there are none.”
Huhtula echoed many of Cleveland’s sentiments, adding that her primary concerns for HUSA centered around its ability to communicate and be accountable. She said it was hard for business owners within the organization to communicate to the board, saying that it was within the organizations bylaws to hold a general meeting every year, and that HUSA wasn’t conducting those meetings. She also said the board wasn’t doing enough in its sponsorship of the events held in Uptown, explaining that contributing $500 was fine, but the organization should be doing more.
The other side
In the organization’s defense, longtime HUSA member and secretary John Shaw addressed the concerns raised by Cleveland and Huhtula during the hearing.
He explained that the majority of the information they were looking for was in fact explained in the report filed with the city, and was public knowledge.
“And as far as having a general meeting, it is something that can be a benefit, but I think what’s more important is that we have monthly meetings,” Shaw said. “So there is actually more accountability from the standpoint that if there’s a concern or question, you can come to those meetings.”
Shaw went on to say that the direction the board has taken over the last couple of years has been a change for the better. He said it would allow the HUSA board to have the ability to have money to spend on really tangible projects.
“Everything that’s being done is being done on a volunteer basis,” Shaw said. “No one is receiving any income for anything that’s being accomplished.”
In addressing an issue raised by Cleveland about the board sitting on previously allocated funds for a long time, Shaw said it has been a goal for the last couple of years to focus on a project designed to significantly improve parking in the area. He said the board needed a substantial amount of money to put that kind of project together, which it now has. He said the current problem now was that the board has been looking for projects to utilize those funds, and hasn’t been able to find anything matching its criteria. In response, it developed the proposed budget dedicated to bringing in kiosks, replacing benches and so on.
“I think our objectives are very clear, and I think with this money we can see some very significant changes,” Shaw said.
He brought up maintenance issues within Pancera Plaza, located on Gay and Main streets. He said some of HUSA’s accumulated funds could now be used to fix some of those problems.
Huhtula later said she appreciated some of Shaw’s comments. She said the communication problems business owners have had with the HUSA board were still apparent however, and needed to be addressed.
City Attorney Peter Talia said he’s worked with HUSA over the last few months, and said he sees the potential in the organization to help benefit the community. He said the current leadership within the organization is on the right path.
“I’ve been looking at HUSA because I want to help HUSA,” Talia said. “HUSA is a vehicle that can be used under the code to promote tourism. HUSA’s boundaries could be expanded to include the entire Main Street. HUSA’s name could be changed. HUSA’s problem is the same as our problem. It’s communication. We now have a team in place that communicates with each other. I think HUSA has cleaned itself up.”
Talia added that while it isn’t in his contract, he would gladly volunteer to continue working with HUSA in order to make sure it continues to operate smoothly.
Shaw also invited the council to come and attend one of HUSA’s regularly scheduled monthly meetings, so it can find out first-hand how it conducts its business.
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