COVINGTON — The chairman of the Main Street board of directors is questioning the methodology used by a consultant hired by the city of Covington to review the program and defending the board against claims that members were not readily available to assist in the review process.
Main Street board of directors Chairman Dan Walden first expressed concerns over the methodology used to determine merchants and stakeholders that were surveyed for a review by Chris Jones of NewTown Partners at a Jan. 22 Covington City Council meeting.
Jones explained in a later interview with the Citizen that he obtained names from elected officials, the Main Street director, board members and city staff members to get names of stakeholders and also walked the downtown to interview merchants.
Jones also said most merchants are not happy with the program and that improvements could be made.
Walden said an online or written survey should have been conducted.
“In order to arrive at a conclusion that ‘most of the merchants are not happy with the program,’ one would have to attempt to survey all of the merchants,” Walden said. “One way to accomplish that would be with an online or written survey. Follow-up conversations based on those results could clarify issues of concern.”
Walden also disagreed with Jones’ statement that director Josephine Kelly and Main Street board members were not receptive to the review and he had trouble obtaining meetings with them.
“This is simply not true,” Walden said. “When the (Main Street) board met at our stated monthly meeting on Dec. 13, the mayor, who had received the report and was preparing to present it to the City Council, was informed that only one member of the (board) had been approached and interviewed at that time. On Dec. 17, two more members of our board, including me, were contacted by Mr. Jones to set up interviews.”
The report prepared by Jones recommended more accountability from Main Street to the city and more oversight from the city, including monthly reports detailing accomplishments of the program and current projects provided to the city manager and passed on to the mayor and council, as well as annual reports.
“Mr. Jones apparently didn’t spend any time perusing the monthly, quarterly and annual reports that the program prepares and provides to city and county governments,” Walden said, “including the (Main Street) Plan of Work and Budget, the Director’s Report, and minutes from the (Main Street) board monthly meetings.”
The report also said the 12-member volunteer Main Street Board “is not adequately educated on the basic four points of the program and in some cases board members are not effectively ‘vested’ in the goals and objectives of the program.”
“He offers no support for these claims because in fact there is none,” Walden said. “The Main Street board consists of 12 volunteers from all walks of life and a wide range of professions. We are all dedicated to the work of Main Street because we live and work in downtown Covington, and we love our city. The vast program of work that Main Street manages to accomplish with a single paid staff member could not happen without dedicated volunteers.
“These are but a few of the problems with, and inaccuracies contained in this evaluation. That said, there are many good recommendations in Mr. Jones’ report. Among them are an increased emphasis on economic development focus at the expense of focus on events.”
Walden noted that Jones also recommended hiring a part-time employee to assist the director in achieving program goals.
“This is a recommendation that the Main Street board made nearly two years ago to the City Council ... a recommendation that was ignored,” he said.
Walden said the board is supportive of the decision to review the program.
“As I’ve said before, we take this report very seriously,” Walden said. ”We will work diligently to put into place those recommendations the report contains which are not already in place,”
Walden said the board will discuss the findings at its February board meeting.