It appears that some City Council members are a bit misinformed regarding the organization of DRI (Downtown Rhinelander Inc.) and the city parking lots. This letter is in reference to an article in the Thursday, Oct. 12 edition of the Northwoods River News "Future of downtown parking lots uncertain."
DRI was formed in 2006 so that we could be a part of the Main Street Program. The Main Street Program is a federal organization created to bring awareness to and strengthen historic downtowns in America. The intent is to preserve the character of these downtowns and help revitalize the commercial district with the many challenges they face. DRI formed and became part of the larger main street organization, so that their assistance and expertise would aid in programs to reinvigorate our downtown.
Early on our downtown district formed a BID, taxing ourselves, so that there would be a funding resource for projects important to the downtown and it's future. It should be noted that the BID was formed to enhance existing city services not replace them and certainly not solely to save the city parking lots.
Preserving and maintaining parking lots has always been a concern for DRI and an agreement between DRI, the Cleary Foundation and the city was created to address those needs. This was a joint effort between these parties not at the insistence of DRI. It began when the city was deciding whether or not to keep the parking meters downtown, as funds from the parking meters were used to maintain the parking lots. Without the funds from the parking meters, the maintenance costs had to come from somewhere and a parking advisory committee formed with the above three parties as a solution and were able to combine resources to keep the parking lots maintained.
Since its inception, these three groups worked together and came up with a plan that worked until some businesses in the downtown decided that the BID wasn't benefiting them and the BID was dissolved, leaving DRI without the funds to help support the parking lot maintenance.
Since DRI no longer has access to BID money, it is therefore unable to support the parking lot maintenance. So we are again under the same threat that there is no money to maintain the parking lots.
There is talk of forming a new parking advisory group and not including representatives from the downtown - the businesses that will be impacted the most!
DRI is no longer funded by the BID money and has not been since 2016. DRI was fortunate to be given a substantial donation and some of those funds were directed toward the purchase of our downtown holiday lighting since the holiday lighting has not been a priority for the city of Rhinelander. None of the BID money was used for this purpose.
Since we are now a "Premiere Resort Area" we should be trying to create a positive experience for visitors and locals alike.
To that end, DRI is still a functioning organization that continues to work hard to raise funding for any events that happen downtown. They are a group of dedicated community members/business owners who volunteer their time to keeping the organization alive. These efforts are needed to keep our downtown viable. The downtown boosts our local economy through tax dollars and employs many members of this community. Are we expecting too much to be asking for at least basic services like parking lot maintenance?
The Northwoods River News | Walker Communications, LLC 232 S. Courtney Street, Rhinelander, WI 54501 | Office (715) 365-6397 | Fax (715) 365-6361
Corporate billing office: The Lakeland Times / Lakeland Printing Inc. | P.O. Box 790, Minocqua, WI 54548 | (715) 356-5236 | Fax (715) 358-2121 Members of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, Wisconsin Community Papers, Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce, Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce