Downtown Rifle could get better promotion and aesthetic improvements, if a fulltime position is partially funded by the city of Rifle and the Rifle Regional Economic Development Corp.
City Council and staff, along with RREDC President Michael Langhorne and others, discussed the possibility of becoming part of the nationwide Main Street program at an Aug. 15 workshop.
Rifle has informally been part of the program through workshops and planning activities over the last year, said Mike Braaten, governmental affairs coordinator for the city. Now, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, which coordinates the program in the state, wants the city to become a formal member of the Main Street program, or drop out.
The Main Street program is run by the National Trust of Historic Preservation, Braaten explained. It serves to revitalize and improve the management of downtowns in communities across the country, he said.
Langhorne said the RREDC has already advertised the position, since it needs at least a part-time staffer to help with its programs. The names of the applicants are confidential, he said, but include one with a master's degree in planning.
"I'm sure this job will include a lot of marketing and sales," Langhorne added. "We want to do it well, so we want the best person for the job."
Langhorne said a part-time vacancy may be filled through a temporary employment agency in the interim, to help the EDC with its programs. The Main Street program does require a full-time position, he added.
Langhorne said the position would likely require an hourly wage of between $19 to $23, or an annual salary of between $40,000 to $48,000. The RREDC has committed up to $18,000 of that amount and the city could pay the rest, Langhorne proposed.
City Council directed staff to see if the city had $24,000 to designate for the position, starting next year, and potentially $8,000 for the rest of this year.
Langhorne noted that while the program is run through downtown development authorities in other communities, Rifle would likely operate it through his organization.
"We know the Rifle DDA is already doing many of the same things the Main Street program says you should be doing," Langhorne said. "Our goal with this is not to create another layer of meetings and bureaucracy but to include everyone and coordinate events that now don't get the publicity they should."
Langhorne said the Rifle DDA does not have a full-time director, so this coordinator position could help that group, along with the chamber of commerce and economic development corporation.
DDA board member Gil Frontella said that entity felt much of what the Main Street program offers is already in place, except the coordination to ensure information about downtown-related events is distributed.
"We did not see it as a totally different program, but we also did not intend to dampen what you're trying to do," Frontella told City Council.
City Councilwoman Jennifer Sanborn said there does seem to be some overlap in duties between what's done now and what a Main Street coordinator would be charged with doing.
"I think doing anything further right now is a big no-no in this economy," she added.
However, Sanborn said the program could be valuable to the city and its downtown, so it comes down to available funds.
"We're not even into the budget cycle for next year and we're already looking at a $40,000 to $48,000 position?" she asked. "There just seem to be gray areas with a lot of overlapping that we need to address. I'd rather not jump on board with this full swing now, compared to some of the other needs we have, too."
Mayor Jay Miller said he hoped the chamber, city, DDA and RREDC could work together to establish firm responsibilities for this position, if it is pursued.
Councilman Randy Winkler agreed, and added a clear job description was needed, including who would oversee the coordinator.
Councilman Keith Lambert said he could see how this position would "take this community to the next level."
"If we can afford it, I think we should seriously consider it," he added. "It sounds like the EDC plans to move forward in some fashion regardless of what the city does, but I think without us, we'll have lost an opportunity."