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Bessemer DDA moves closer to seeking outside advice


January 19, 2023


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Bessemer — Despite not always agreeing on the finer details, members of Bessemer’s Downtown Development Authority are moving forward with a plan to seek outside advice on how to improve the city’s downtown area.

At their Jan. 11 meeting, they reviewed a related draft for a Request for Proposals — often referred to by its acronym of RFP — that begins as follows:

“The Bessemer Downtown Development Authority invites multi-disciplinary teams with experience in the fields of rural and urban planning, civil engineering, real estate, historic preservation, economic and community development, and/or related fields to submit proposals to provide professional services to assist with a new Downtown Development and Tax Increment Financing plan for the city of Bessemer, Michigan.”

Samantha Dorr, the city secretary who heads up the DDA and is formulating the request, pointed out some of the main objectives listed within it, including a desire for greater private investment, promotion of outdoor activity, and street activation that could include anything from retail development to more effective alley use.

Regarding potential RFP applicants, she said the city’s request is “basically asking for how they’re going to do it.”

Dorr estimates that hiring a consultant could cost about $25,000 — a sum that prompted DDA member Dan Whitburn and Chair Dave Osier to question the need for outside advice.

“I’m okay with the consultant plan,” said Mayor Adam Zak, reiterating his point from a previous meeting that expert advice could protect the city’s interests “in case we need to bond.”

Nevertheless, he clarified that it’s essential to identify the expectations and the desired approach.

DDA member Kady Meinke agreed that the city would benefit from receiving “parameters, rules, boundaries” under which to operate, along with advice on funds to tap for the DDA or individual businesses.

Meinke also noted the importance of up-dating contact information on downtown business owners and asking them their input on what DDA priorities should be.

Whitburn said he could support a more “basic and broad approach” and added that, in years past, the city had received some “great ideas” from Michigan State University. Zak said that the information should be in city files.

“That would be wonderful to look at,” said Meinke. “We could build on that, reference it.”

Zak also suggested that the city assessor’s office should be contacted as soon as possible in order to facilitate the purchase of the vacant Gamble’s building before the property results in being designated for a tax sale.

In other news, members also learned of a Jan. 4 letter to Dorr from Melissa Prisbe, city assessor, in which she explained that Associate Title & Closing Services, Inc. in Ironwood has advised that a court order will be needed to sell land on the corner of South Sophie Street and East Sellar Street.

“What happened was the land was tax-foreclosed in 1992,” said Dorr. “I don’t know why it happened.” As a result, she said the land has not been on the city tax roll since 1991.

The mayor noted that the status of the land renders it illegitimate or “nonexistent” in relation to the city’s right to take any action on it.

He acknowledged that resolving the issue could cost up to $10,000 in legal fees but added that City Attorney Ray O’Dea may be able to bring that cost down. He said he also will ask the City Council to sign the land over to the DDA.

“I think we should just rip off the Band-Aid,” said Dorr, and Zak agreed that city officials “just need to fix it.”

DDA members also:

—Voted to fund $400 per year for board and/or staff training in relation to DDA needs, along with $500 for DDA marketing.

—Voted to accept a report by Dorr regarding the past year’s activity of the DDA, which has existed since 1987. In relation to a review of general organizational protocol, Osier also requested Dorr to seek advice from the Michigan Municipal League regarding the most appropriate rules of order to use.

—Learned from Dorr that a video camera purchased for East Mary Street will not be installed until milder weather in the spring.

The DDA’s next regular meeting will be on Feb. 8 at 6 p.m. in the City Council chambers of the Bessemer City Hall.


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