Another restructuring year for the Morrisburg Business Improvement Area

In many areas of the Morrisburg Village Plaza parking lot, the asphalt has failed leaving the area a minefield of filled and unfilled potholes. Members of the Morrisburg DBIA at their AGM stressed the need for repairs to the parking lot and a connection to the new multi-use pathway along County Road 2. (The Leader/Blancher photo)

MORRISBURG – Clearly the majority of businesses within the Morrisburg Business Improvement Area want the BIA to continue, but its future remains unclear.

BIA board member Arla Casselman-Veinotte presented results of the survey circulated to all member businesses at the May 7 regular meeting.

Thirty-four of 36 surveys distributed were returned and the results showed that 30 businesses want to see the BIA continue, with 20 of them saying that they see value for the BIA levy that they pay annually on their property taxes.

Acting board chair Kathy Moger, said: “Twenty people say yes they want the BIA to continue, but there’s only five people sitting here – that’s a problem.”

Those attending last week’s meeting included council representative Cole Veinotte and board members Moger, Tracey Veinotte, Arla Casselman-Veinotte, James Arsenault and Victoria Windle. Two membership observers also attended.

The BIA has long struggled to attract its membership to attend its regular business meetings, often failing to have quorum to appropriately conduct regular business.

At last week’s meeting, Moger chose to resign from the position of acting chair, and the board.

The first call for board nominations at this meeting did not result in all of the executive positions being filled.

Tracy Veinotte agreed to take on the role of vice chair. Arsenault agreed to continue as treasurer and Windle to continue as secretary.

With no one willing to take on the role of chair, South Dundas municipal clerk Crystal Lebrun investigated the legalities of the council appointed member of the board Cole Veinotte becoming chair.

“If there’s no chair this is not a BIA, it’s a working group,” said Lebrun.

“If we have a chair, we can consider this a rebuilding year, again,” said Windle.

Cole Veinotte agreed that he will serve as chair to see the BIA through one more year of trying to rebuild. “Without a board next year, the BIA will have to dissolve,” said Cole Veinotte.

Moger, whose business is part of the East End Promenade plaza, will survey the other East End plaza businesses to determine if they are amenable to requesting that the East End plaza be removed from the BIA district.

She explained that her annual levy is almost $700. The East End plaza businesses are all subject to the BIA levy, collected on their annual property taxes by the municipality and allocated to the BIA to fund its operations and efforts. However, the East End plaza is actually privately owned. That plaza owner pays for services such as snowplowing, sidewalk and canopy cleaning and maintenance, unlike the main Morrisburg plaza, where all areas outside the store doors are municipally owned and maintained and therefore taxpayer funded.

“There’s no question, there is a big difference between those two malls,” said Councillor Cole Veinotte.

Money to cover the cost of East End plaza maintenance is built into the rent that those businesses located in that mall pay to the mall owner.

“I’m one person trying to keep my business going and trying to make ends meet, but I’m paying twice for the same service,” said Moger, adding that she is paying almost $700 a year to beautify the other mall.

Moger will bring the results of the East End Plaza discussions to the next meeting to determine whether or not the BIA boundaries will be modified.

After that is determined the BIA can then set its budget for the year.

The plan for this year is to try and renew membership interest in the organization and to focus solely on beautification efforts which are mainly planting, watering and weeding flower beds in the main Morrisburg Plaza. Rather than relying on volunteer efforts, the BIA is exploring the possibility of contracting those maintenance services to an area property service business.

The board will continue to operate without a BIA coordinator.

While the Iroquois Plaza has the same municipal ownership structure as the main Morrisburg Plaza, it operates its business group without the structure of a BIA so no additional levy is collected from its member businesses. Its events are organized and run by volunteers and paid for through fundraising.

The appointment of Cole Veinotte as Morrisburg BIA chair and any proposed BIA boundary modifications will require council approval.

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