With sales tax collections above expectations, Columbia's Business Loop Community Improvement District hopes to search for a consultant soon.
CID Executive Director Carrie Gartner said the board will most likely approve the request for qualification at its next meeting. The firm they hire will help plan improvements, like beautification and infrastructure. Gartner expects to spend $125,000 for both the consultant, and a separate traffic study. The Loop's financial records show it collected more than $32,000 in December, giving them around $80,000 for the fiscal year starting in October. That significantly beat out expectations, but Gartner said their benchmarks were based on 2012 results.
"When Columbia moved out of the recession, so did the Business Loop," Gartner surmised.
The CID is still paying off a quarter of a million dollars in legal fees stemming from both its creation and a lawsuit filed by a resident of the district. Jen Henderson sued over the way the district conducted its election to establish the half-cent sales tax along Business Loop 70, from College Avenue to the I-70 bridge. The Missouri Supreme Court has twice denied to hear the case, after Boone County Judge Jodie Asel denied Henderson's petition to redo the election.
Gartner said she has a year-and-a-half plan to fully pay off the legal fees and hire consultants for the early work. The board recently spoke with Dillon Goodson with the Lakeview, Ill. Chamber of Commerce, and former marketing director for the Chicago Loop Alliance. Gartner said she also worked with PedNet Coalition and GetAbout Columbia to assess the pedestrian and bicyclist needs in the area, such as sidewalk gaps and crosswalk locations.
"There's a very different feeling when you're standing in the bike lane unprotected from traffic, trying to cross the road where there's no crosswalk," Gartner said.
The CID board has long said it needed a consultant to help organize and visualize the most effective work to achieve its goals. The board agreed on finding a firm to help develop a more "attractive" area and develop a "long-term vision" for the street.