Statesboro City Council and Mayor Jan Moore postponed a decision Tuesday on transferring America’s Best Community’s competition winnings from city control to the new Blue Mile Foundation Inc.
District 1 Councilman Phil Boyum said he wants to make sure the city is adequately represented on the foundation’s board. If the city approves a change in a January 2016 agreement, the foundation will take control of more than $1.13 million for revitalization efforts on South Main Street, nicknamed the Blue Mile.
The city would still direct the use of a $450,000 Georgia Department of Transportation, or GDOT, grant earmarked for sidewalk and drainage improvements on the Blue Mile. The city will also control revenues from a Tax Allocation District, or TAD, which includes but is not limited to South Main Street.
Speaking at Tuesday’s meeting, Boyum said the city should retain a voice in the use of the contest winnings as well.
“Ultimately, the city still needs to have some sort of say, if for no other reason than we’ve got the GDOT grant, we have the TAD district, we’ve got a lot of things going on, the DSDA, in the downtown area, and to create another foundation with no city representation, to me, that’s going to create issues with working together,” he said.
He noted that the city has representation on the boards of the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority, or DSDA, and the Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau. Boyum asked that the city be given voting representation, and not just a liaison, on the Blue Mile Foundation. Some of the foundation’s organizers said they are open to this, so changing the agreement could be back on the agenda for the council’s June 20 meeting.
Meanwhile, the $1 million prize from Statesboro’s April third-place national win in the America’s Best Communities arrived Wednesday in a designated Averitt Center account, Blue Mile Committee co-chair Darron Burnette said in an email.
In January 2016, the council approved an agreement with the Averitt Center for the Arts Inc. and the DSDA giving the city financial control of winnings from the America’s Best Communities competition. At that point, Statesboro as a community had won $35,000, augmented with a $15,000 corporate sponsorship from communications cable company Anixter and a $15,000 local match from the DSDA.
But the Averitt Center, as a nonprofit, tax-exempt corporation, was the original applicant.
The Blue Mile plan for the revitalization of South Main Street continued to garner awards in the contest funded by Frontier Communications and three other corporations. After the plan won a $100,000 award for Statesboro as one of eight finalist communities in April 2016, that amount passed from the Averitt Center to a city account.
After previously reported expenditures, a little over $137,000 remains in the city’s account from the earlier prizes and sponsorships.
The January 2016 agreement states, “The total funding amount awarded by the America’s Best Communities Competition and any local matches will be transferred to the City of Statesboro for purposes represented in the competition application.”
But that follows a paragraph stating that the city was to administer the funds in accordance with the contest rules and the city’s financial policies. Moore and other officials have said that the purpose was for the city to make sure the money was handled properly, not to control its use.
Moore had said she wanted the money turned over to the foundation by the end of the city’s fiscal year, June 30. At her request, the agreement appeared on Tuesday’s agenda for modification. But Moore announced that this item was being “tabled” and that Boyum would speak about his concerns later in the meeting, which he did.
Boyum said council members had received no information on the makeup of the Blue Mile Foundation or how its board members will be chosen. The city, he said, should have voting representation and “not just an ex officio, recommendation-type” member.
“I don’t disagree with you on that,” Moore told Boyum. “I think part of the issue is as we work together going forward, we’ve got to work in synch for the greater whole, and if there isn’t a lot of conversation that goes back and forth, then there is potential for miscommunication.”
The Blue Mile Foundation Inc., with Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce President Phyllis Thompson as its registered agent and local lawyer Laura Marsh doing the legal work, was registered as a Georgia corporation April 20. Its incorporation certificate states that the foundation will be a 501c3 tax-exempt nonprofit. But other steps must be completed to secure the federal tax-exempt status.
“In forming the bylaws, which we’re working through all those issues of who will be the board members, we were initially thinking that we’d have seven board members with the three partner entities — the city, the Averitt and the DSDA — having an ex officio role on there,” Bob Mikell, also a local attorney and a Blue Mile Committee member, told City Council.
“But I think we’re open to discussion, and I could see a nine-member board with each of those three partner entities having a voting member of the board,” he said.
The seven people who previously agreed to be foundation board members were Burnette and the other Blue Mile co-chair, Keely Fennell; Thompson; Mikell; Georgia Power Area Manager Audrey King; Agape Worship Center Pastor Donald Chavers Jr.; and Margaretta Patterson. Patterson, a Habitat for Humanity homeowner in the Blue Mile area, “has been critical on the Neighborhood Revitalization Committee,” Mikell said.
Under the proposed new agreement, the foundation would report its expenditures annually to the city and the other agencies, he said.
“We are also very open to adding a representative from the City of Statesboro and the Downtown Development Authority to the Blue Mile Foundation board,” Burnette said by email Wednesday.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.