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Dayton's Main Street Program at Center of Debate Again at City Meeting

Clarification: An earlier version of this article did not make mention that the Hermans received nearly $10,000 from two CCAP program incentives from the City of Dayton for signage and business occupancy. The Hermans were seeking reimbursement from a third CCAP incentive related to structural improvement. RCN regrets the omission.

The City of Dayton's economic development program created to revitalize its historic central business district was the subject of confusion and discussion at Tuesday night's city council meeting.

Tom Herman, motivated by the Community Commercial Advantage Program (CCAP) created in 2015, purchased 609 Sixth Avenue for the purposes of renovating it and placing a retail operation there. Now Herman and his wife, Teri, have completed their work and opened Blue Ridge Simply Unique, a gift shop. Now the couple is looking to recoup some of its initial investment by requesting the city incentive.

Trouble is, the process was not followed in the correct order, meaning the Hermans' work does not qualify for reimbursement. The Hermans received nearly $10,000 from two CCAP program incentives from the City of Dayton for signage and business occupancy. The Hermans were seeking reimbursement from a third CCAP incentive related to structural improvement, City Administrator Michael Giffen said. 

Tom Herman pleaded his case before council on Tuesday. The awning is up, there are new floors and doors and pavers, and new iron gates and fencing. Structural problems have been repaired and new electric has been installed. "We went through this whole process and we asked for help. We did whatever we thought we were supposed to do throughout the whole process," Herman said. The couple submitted receipts amounting to more than $11,000 worth of work.

But there was never a project proposal submitted. 

"The application has to be met with a detailed project proposal," Giffen told Herman. "It needs to be known in advance because there are inspections required by the city. The purpose of this particular program was to have the information approved ahead of time."

The CCAP offers investors and developers incentives through grants, refunds, and tax breaks related to new projects in the central business district. But Herman said that the way the process was supposed to flow was not fully explained to him. Meanwhile, in the past year, there have been two different main street managers overseeing the program at the city building, and that position is currently vacant again. Because of that, Herman found sympathy from some members of council.

"We want businesses to look like what Mr. Herman has done in the city," Councilman Jerry Gifford said. "We had two changes (when main street manager Anthony Cadle departed for the City of Cincinnati, and his replacement Tina Neyer resigned in October). I know all along he thinks he was doing the right thing. They dropped the paperwork. That's not his problem."

"Nothing has been approved," Giffen said. "Look, I'm not trying to knock Tom. What he and his wife have done is a nice addition to the community. It's black and white to me. There were never pre-inspections that needed to be done. So, it's different for the people making decisions to approve those. There was no proposed project, just receipts."

Herman believes that his project is eligible for up to $6,800 in grants while Giffen said only $700 worth of work would qualify. 

Mayor Virgil Boruske suggested that a resolution be created at the economic development committee, whose members were amenable to the idea, but City Attorney Tom Edge said that that was not possible because the program is clearly and legally defined. 

"Unfortunately, this is bad news for you, Tom," Edge said. "The CCAP program guidelines are pretty fair and clear. What you want to happen can't happen. The proof you need for any spending from the city had to be for public purposes. After the fact, saying this was for that purpose doesn't incentivize economic development growth. It's just rewarding past actions."

Herman said that he would be willing to take all his work down and start over in order to benefit from the program.

"I feel like there have been several times that (Herman) has been miscommunicated with and it shows tonight," Councilman Joey Tucker said. "This isn't going in the right direction."

"We're not going to encourage people to come in and do business here if we don't have our ducks in a row," Gifford said.

Giffen said that he wanted to defend the city staff, including both employees who held the main street manager title, arguing that all applicants for the program are given the appropriate package of CCAP materials and that communication is maintained. 

Tuesday night's confusion followed a lengthy decision at last month's council meeting about the future of the main street manager position. Giffen and Boruske suggested that the position could be outsourced to a third party entity but a majority of council members voted to maintain the position in house. Applications for the position are being accepted through December 16.

Also, Tuesday night and in accordance with the revised Interlocal Agreement, Dayton amended its fines for animals running at large, a civil offense. A first offense will cost a violator $85; $100 for a second or greater offense; and in the event an animal is not spayed or neutered, a $100 fine will be levied against them. Next, revisions related to code enforcement were read, which stated, “the ordinance revokes the previously enacted nuisances, prohibitions as modified by chapter 99 of the Dayton Code of Ordinances. As a replacement, this ordinance enacts new nuisance laws for environmental issues such as garbage, trash, dilapidated housing and other violations of the Dayton Code of Ordinances. The ordinance further enacts procedures for citations, appeal violations, creation of the Code Enforcement Board. The ordinance also revises penalties highlighted throughout the city code of ordinance: Any person or corporation that violates any provision of this chapter will be leveled a civil fine of not less than $250.” Furthermore, council passed a motion for temporary permits for usage of dumpsters in storage units, overriding the single dissenting vote by councilman Jerry Gifford.

Other Notes:

Giffen introduced a new motion to council for the addition of money to replace four lights in the city building, which have been sorely needed for quite some time, he added. There is pre-existing money within the budget to pay for the new lighting.

Police Chief David Halfhill told council the police force will be fully staffed at 10 officers after a nearly six-month search took place, resulting in a former officer of the city to return home for the first time since he had patrolled Dayton’s streets in 2004 after six years policing Pendleton County.

Public Works Committee member and councilman Bill Burns wants to find out how many sewers within the city can be repaired or replaced. “By next month, I’d let to get a report of broken sewer grates we have in our city and in that report, what the costs would be to repair and/or replace them. We need to think about that for upcoming budgets,” he said. “I’ll send that over. We have put together a list this fall and what we intend to do or what we’ve been doing with some of these broken ones is kind of patching them for now but what we’d like to do is repair them and actually create an in-ground draining system,” Giffen replied. To help, the city may talk with Metal Solutions to solve its sewer problem.

Written by Michael Monks and Jason Finnell