Downtown Merchants May See Service Fee Increase

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - City council members and Mayor Bill Bunten Tuesday heard about a proposed fee increase for downtown merchants and plans are being made to fill the seats left by two leaders who've gone on to other elected offices.

The work session on the fee increase was followed by a fairly short meeting for Topeka's governing body, after City Manager Jim Colson pulled a resolution supporting low income tax credits for victory village from the agenda.

The move to postpone the Victory Village resolution gives community members more time to weigh in on the development project. It will be back on the agenda at a later date.

During the work session, city council had the advisory board for the Downtown Business Improvement District explain their recommendation for a service fee increase.

Tenants in the Business Improvement District currently pay a service fee to the city for basic services including maintenance, trash cleaning and marketing.

Vince Frye, CEO of Downtown Topeka Inc, which administers the funds and advises city council says that fee needs to increase.

"As we look to 2013 and beyond we realize certain needs that are gonna have to be funded," Frye said as he explained the proposed ordinance.

The ordinance would eliminate the exemption for businesses with fewer than 1000 square feet and instead establish a flat rate of $60 annually.

It would also raise the assessed rate for businesses with more than 1000 square feet from 0.0525 to 0.0605 annually. The maximum annual assessment would be raised from $12,000 to to $13,000.

"We ask this for several reasons," he said. "Number one, we'll be asked to pick up more expenses. This past year, we did not have to pay for any of the landscape costs for downtown. We've met with the City and agreed to pick up at least 14,000."

In addition, Frye says there's the cost of putting up and taking down Christmas lights of 15,000 dollars.

Frye says fees collected will benefit everyone in the district.

"We'll be doing whatever we can to make sure that no matter where they are, on Kansas Avenue all the way out to 12th Street and down to the river, that people will see a benefit from this," he said.

In other council business, Deputy Mayor Larry Wolgast announced that candidates for the two positions vacated by Bob Archer and John Alcala will be interviewed during the council's regular on meeting February 5th.