Saturday, January 21, 2012
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Main Street Lincoln plans for successful 2012

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[January 21, 2012]  Thursday evening the Main Street Lincoln group hit the ground running with two very important issues on the agenda: the budget and developing community partnerships. 

In essence the two do go hand in hand, as it is the financial support of the community partners who help fund the annual budget. 

The Main Street organization draws funding from the city and the county, has some grant funding that applies to specific projects, and does fundraising events throughout the year.  However, these cash sources do not supply all the needs of the organization. 

The community partnerships are opportunities for local businesses to become members of the Main Street organization with a cash donation. In addition to the partnerships, there are sponsor opportunities when a business can offer support to a specific event such as The Art of Wine or Honest Abe's Barbeque Cook Off. 

For this calendar year, Main Street is going to need to raise $57,000 to break even. Rohlfs talked about the funding, saying she is hopeful the city of Lincoln will be able to increase its funding to the organization this year. 

In 2010, the cash-strapped city government cut funding to some community partners, including Main Street. Formerly contributing a total of $15,000, the city cut the amount to $10,000. When the city returned to the budget table in March of 2011 Alderwoman Melody Anderson said she felt the cut had sent a message to Main Street Lincoln and they had responded well, becoming more active and more visible in the downtown community. 

This year, Rohlfs feels the organization has once again raised the bar and is hopeful the city will recognize this. 

Another source of funding comes from the county via the hotel-motel tax. Main Street receives one-half of 1 percent of the total tax collected, which Rohlfs said could be as much as $14,000 this year.

However, as this was being discussed, Bell said the tourism bureau, which also benefits from this tax, is concerned the revenues may not be there this year. The projections that by summer gas could be as high as $5 per gallon are going to hold people back from traveling on vacations. 

In addition to the contributions of the governing bodies, Main Street hopes to raise $12,000 from The Art of Wine, $1,000 through the barbecue event and a total of $2,500 projected from other fundraisers such as city ornament sales, saver cards, the annual dinner at Hallie's and the sale of Lincoln in Lincoln prints. 

Rohlfs said the budget is once again lean this year, but if funding isn't found, the group will have to concentrate of finding ways to cut expenses. One area she noted immediately was a line item for meetings and conferences. She said she had put money in the line item to attend a national Main Street conference this year, something she has not been able to do for the last few years. If the money cannot be found to support the budget, that is one of the first lines that can be cut. 

Currently the budget has $10,000 in partnership revenues and $2,500 in sponsorships. The group turned their focus on the partnership amount, looking at who is being approached to become partners and how this revenue can be increased by expanding the partnership drive. 

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Although the role of the Main Street organization focuses on historic preservation and economic growth and revitalization of the downtown area, their success in achieving these goals can benefit the entire Logan County region. 

The group discussed how to explain this to would-be partners so they can understand their partnership is not only important to Main Street Lincoln, but to their business as well. 

Bell, who has worked a great deal in her current job with promotions, volunteered to draft a letter explaining the benefits of belonging to Main Street, as well as a news release for local media. 

The organization will be sending out letters seeking partners and sponsors. They also agreed they will divide their mailing list among them this year, and each board member will call on at least 10 prospective partners. 

In addition, the board agreed that each member will contribute financially to the partnership program. 

In other news, the board also discussed the $675,000 grant received by the city of Lincoln for downtown revitalization. Rohlfs said Main Street Lincoln will not benefit financially from the grant, but she is really excited that the group will have input in the planning process. 

She explained that the plans that are going to be made fall right in line with the expectations of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity for the Main Street program.   

She is also excited that among the items on the to-do list for the grant is the establishment of a historic preservation ordinance for the city. She said this is important to Main Street and will be helpful in the future when the city applies for other grants to do the actual work of downtown beautification. 

County liaison Andy Anderson asked about this ordinance, saying he didn't know there wasn't one. Rohlfs said it had come up in the past, but it met with opposition because doing a preservation ordinance can be perceived as dictating to property owners what they can and cannot do with their own property. She said the ordinance will only apply to what is visible from the outside and does not dictate how business owners set up the interiors of their businesses.

It also does not mean that all the businesses in town must look like they were built in the 1800s. To maintain proper preservation, the buildings should look like they did the day they were built. She noted, for example, the Becherer's Jewelers building was built in the 1950s and looks like it.

In historic preservation, that would not change. What would change would be adding 21st-century facades to 19th-century buildings. Under a preservation ordinance, the facades would have to be done in a manner that appears historically correct to the time the building was constructed.

As the two-hour meeting of the board came to a close, it appeared everyone in the room had a better understanding of their mission as board members and are ready to fulfill that mission.


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