DDA loses director
The Downtown Dickinson Association no longer has an executive director.
Jennifer Strange left the organization Friday. She started the job on Feb. 1.
"It was her choice," Kristi Schwartz, DDA board president, said. "She has some personal things going on. She just made the decision that... she and her husband are moving."
She added, "We didn't let her go."
The DDA posted a message on its social media accounts with a comment from Strange.
"What a privilege to meet and work with these dedicated folks who serve on the board and who have become DDA members," Strange wrote. "They all help us realize our shared mission of creating a vibrant, dynamic Downtown Dickinson."
The DDA will soon begin looking for a replacement, Schwartz said.
"We will be posting the position this week and going through the hiring process, utilizing the hiring committee from the board," she said.
The loss of Strange should not affect the DDA's efforts, Schwartz said, including the proposed $6 million town square project.
"We have a lot of volunteers," she said. "The things we're working on are events coming up, as well as the town square. We hope we can continue moving forward on all of our projects."
The town square project hit another delay Tuesday, though, at the regular meeting of the City Commissioners.
Commissioners at their Sept. 11 meeting had selected the corner of Sims and Villard streets as the location for the project.
The decision, though, was contingent on the city being able to come to an agreement with the owners of two properties on the site.
Three pieces of property are needed: 24 Sims St., owned by Rosie and Roger Decker; and 36 and 38 Sims, owned by Bernal and Paulette Marsh.
The Deckers are asking $495,000 for their property and the Marshes are asking $650,000 to $750,000 total for their properties.
The amounts are about 20 to 25 percent over assessed value.
The Decker building and south Marsh building would be demolished. The north Marsh building would be renovated for use as part of the town square, half as storage and restrooms, half as public vendor space.
These property costs could add $1.2 million to the estimated $5.6 million project.
Of the total cost, $2 million would come from the Downtown Dickinson Association through fundraising, and the rest from the city.
The city portion would be paid through sales tax and hospitality tax funds.
Mayor Scott Decker Tuesday spoke against the city spending $1 million on property and serving as a landlord.
"I don't think that's our responsibility as a city," he said. "I don't think we need to have a building, renovate it and then try to find tenants. And that is one of the largest costs in this proposal, that north building."
The city needs to "put a ceiling" on how much it is willing to invest in the project, Decker said.
Decker called for an appraisal of the properties rather than negotiating based on the assessed values provided by the owners.
Decker also suggested it may be the DDA's responsibility to buy and refurbish the building.
Commissioner Sarah Trustem requested a meeting between the DDA and the downtown task force with Decker in attendance.
"I think it's really hard for us to talk about the direction of this project without having members who have been a part of it from the beginning," she said.
Commissioner Carson Steiner said an offer should be made for Site A, and if it is rejected the project can move to Site B, a city-owned lot on Third Avenue West, across from American Bank Center.
"If we can live with it and they can't, then we move it," he said. "Nothing's been done since the last meeting, except that we lost a good woman, Jennifer Strange. That's going to set us back a little bit."
He added, "I agree with the mayor. It's coming down to dollars and cents here, and it's a lot of money."
Commissioners voted to go forward with having the properties appraised.