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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Wilmington City Council unanimously approved the use of parking money to fund a downtown marketing task force. The city will spend $60,000, $30,000 of which will come out of this fiscal year’s budget. The other $30,000 will come out of next fiscal year’s budget in two phases.

However, the parking fund deficit is projected at half a million dollars this year. While the city voted in April not to extend the hours on downtown parking meters, it did vote to to change the 90 minute grace period of the parking decks on 2nd Street and Market Street to 60 minutes. It also changed the deck fee for festival and event parking from $5 to $7.

The marketing task force includes members from Wilmington Downtown Inc. (WDI) and the Downtown Business Alliance (DBA).

President of the DBA, Jim Bitto, says the request is a win-win for the parking fund and the marketing task force.

“You can either solve the problem of the parking deficit by trying to cut back on expenses or get more people to come downtown and park in the decks and generate more revenue, so what we thought would be a good idea is to operate on the revenue side and that’s why we took on this project,” Bitto says.

City manager Sterling Cheatham says the parking fund already has $30,000 set aside for advertising and will easily make up for its deficit.

“Well you’ve got to do whatever is necessary to operate an effective program and again the parking fund has been recovering handsomely,” Cheatham says. “In fact, the proceeds are exceeding our other enterprise activities right now in terms of the growth rate in the revenue. So we think that over the next year, year and a half you’ll see a balanced parking fund.”

The groups have already spent several months organizing a marketing campaign for downtown, and will use the slogan Bring It! Downtown.

Comment on this Story

  • anne

    I don’t live in Wilmington and don’t go very often, but I was just wondering:

    Wilmington wants people to visit downtown, wants to spend money to get people downtown, but yet they are telling the people they will have to spend more if they go downtown. We want you to visit – just expectto pay more to do so. Why would anyone want to go downtown? Just asking!

  • GuestCAH

    When entering into Wilmington two out of three major ways, you can cleary see downtown. CLEARLY. Why the need to market it? Advertising for downtown is like advertising for sand at the beach. We already know it is there. Each business owner should be responsible for marketing their own company.
    Advertise on your own dollar.

  • joe T.

    Forgive me if I don’t understand, first there is a shortfall of $800K and now there is a surplus that will allow $60K to be borrowed from the fund or is it just being taken away like the federal gov’t has done to the social security fund?

    And, now that we have cleared the shortfall in the parking fund and have a surplus, is this indicative that business downtown is good?

    Or, are we still in the hole on the parking fund and are now just borrowing more money to market downtown hoping that the parking garages are going to turn a profit?

    One would expect any funds from parking would go for parking improvements and to pay off previous debt associated with parking. What is to stop the reallocation of funds from road work, police or the fire departments in order to build a zoo or ball park?

  • SurfCityTom

    give WDI & its illustrious Manager sufficient funds?

    To fund a marketing campaign? How effective have past campaigns of the nature they propose been?

    The fund was short by $800,000 last year.

    Makes perfect sense to anyone who does not work in the private sector business world to follow through on this folly.

    After all, why worry about a deficit fund balance?

  • Guest1111

    800k, an easy number to latch onto. 1/2 of that is building capital expenditure to build the 3rd street deck and not a revenue decrease. This is quite normal in the course of a growing population as evident in the latest census.

  • taxpayer

    our members of City Council are taking direction from the folks in Congress. The parking fund was short $800,000 last year. It makes perfect sense to give $60,000, which they cannot afford, to John Hinnant and DBA to “market” downtown…doesn’t it?

    Let WDI and DBA assess their members to raise the funds needed to “market” downtown.

  • Guest CommonTater

    idiots it makes perfect sense…. I guess folks aren’t feeding “their” meters as instructed. We need another dose of direction it seems. hmmm

  • Guest1111

    The article you are making so many comments on is misleading and not providing details which is the nature of the press…the city is not taking from any other taxpaying money. It is allocated every year for parking marketing. The task force of WDI and DBA are simply providing their professional marketing and business experience and time for free to help the city implement a better marketing plan.

    Remember unless you are willing to run for office, be civic minded, volunteer countless hours and then experience the never ending criticism from folks like you…you should be less judging.

  • Guest#007

    scams wdi dba they have events where they charge vendors, they choose who they let join, keep others out who want to join events, they have there own cronies scam going on, the city provides police security and on and on, better off flushing 60 k down the toilet.

  • Guester

    Does the Wilmington city limits just run from bridge to bridge and stop at 3rd St? Downtowns are a thing of the past as far as a shopping hub goes, but these bufoons keep pushing it at all costs and calling it progress and forward thinking while falling behind more and more finacially. Just who is looking out for who?

    “the city’s parking fund was short some $800,000”. So now you want to spend another 60k that we don’t have? No wonder taxes and fees are going up. Government has a spending problem and we need a taxpayer funded baseball stadium “Downtown” like we need a hole in the head. And we wonder why this economy is in such bad shape. Throwing good money after bad, lol.

  • Guest666

    Here’s an idea……..just do away with the meters all together. Maybe some folks will return to shop downtown, even if they are harassed by panhandlers and drunks and must hold their breath when walking past an alley.

  • Das Weibstück

    People will park in one spot ALL day, like the college kids and business owners. So if you want to shop or eat for an hour you will be walking.

  • Guest111

    How about using the monies, instead, to repair Franklin Avenue? Your car is beat to h*** driving down the street. Or, how about repairing the intersection of Market and 3rd? Or, how about repairing most any street in Wilmington??? PLEASE STOP WASTING MONIES AND TAKE CARE OF WHAT IS NEEDED AND HAS BEEN NEEDED FOR MONTHS AND MONTHS. I mean, how dumb are you people? God, bring on election times for all of you! I never have been active in campaigns in the past but I am going to fight as hard as I can to get all of you out of office. This just never stops.

  • Guest2020

    And those idiots wonder why people don’t want to be annexed. The need to get their heads out of their backsides and start doing what is best for all of Wilmington and quit allocating everything for the good of “downtown”.

  • Guest111

    All joking aside. Is there truly any way we, THE CITIZENS, can remove the city elected officials? Seriously, I will donate monies and time to any sure fire attempt to do this. I’m so sick of it.

  • ChefnSurf

    Business as usual… With the parking fund being some $800,000 short last year, the City Council wants to allocate monies from it (monies it probably won’t even have) to the “DOWNTOWN” Marketing Taskforce, a group comprised of Wilmington “DOWNTOWN”, Inc. and the “DOWNTOWN” Business Alliance.

    “DOWNTOWN”: down-town (-toun’), noun.
    (1) the place where the City Council and their cronies have decided
    that all city monies are to be spent on pet projects (sometimes
    pronounced “White Elephants”) for the benefit of a select few.
    (2) a hole near the river into which taxpayers pour money.

    The more you think about it, you more you start to question the value of actually even having a “DOWNTOWN”.

  • Guest1111

    You should become better informed before showing your ignorance. The downtown pays more in taxes per square foot than anywhere else in the city of Wilmington. The parking shortfall is exactly the reason a positive marketing initiative will bring more people locally to shop, eat and explore which will reduce the deficit without raising parking rates. If you were in business yourself you would understand the concept. You should be proud of the downtown area if you live here.

    Lastly the money is in an enterprise parking fund as a budget line item every year that can only be used for parking related initiatives.

  • Guest?

    Did you pay cash for your house? i suppose the city finances the parking decks.

  • Vog46

    Read pg 46.
    Revenues from parking FINES to increase from $450,000 to $660,000 or an increase of $210,000 or about 46%

    Its gonna take a lot more than $60K of advertising to overcome the hard feelings those extra parking tickets will cause.

    Best Regards

  • SurfCityTom

    you clearly show a need to re-educate.

    A deficit occurs when you have fewer dollars coming in than you will spend, are obligated to spend, or will need to spend.

    Last fiscal year, there was an $800,000 deficit. If you did not understand the prior paragraph, that means they spent $800,000 more than came in from revenue — your term not mine.

    This fiscal year, they project a $500,000 deficit. While that’s a step in the right direction — as in reducing deficits — it’s still a deficit. Again see paragraph 2 if you are still confused.

    Even that noted Democrat, Harry Truman, knew that you could not spend more than you take in. That was a hallmark of his early political career; and continued with him in the Senate and the White House.

    You can throw all the white wash out you want to. If it looks like a skunk; if it acts like a skunk; and if it smells like a skunk, it’s still a skunk.

    What you fail to address is why so many avoid downtown at night and on week-ends.

    Crime and disorderly crowds exiting bars.

    Street entertainers who stagger around and panhandle.

    Even that vaunted head of WDI proposed some kind of volunteer citizen patrol to roam the streets. I think many were guffawing at the thought of silver haired citizens roaming the streets and confronting whatever street vendor or bar patron they encountered.

    Or perhaps the thought of the Mayor and his hairstylist roaming the streets with a camera crew from WWAY.

    You can advertise all you want. It will not work. Until, you address the other downtown issues including the quality of roads which tear up vehicle under carriages, drug sales and gang thugs, and disorderly crowds.

    But then I guess you have to do soemthing to justify your group and your position within the group. Are you the WDI EX VP by chance?

    By the way, where did you acquire your knowledge of math and economics? The Haney College of Hooterville?

  • SurfCityTom

    yes I did.

  • Guest7969

    YOU don’t get it…if they weren’t GOUGING people wanting to come downtown with parking fees…they wouldn’t have to BEG for people to come…I WILL NEVER shop downtown as long as I have to PAY for the privileged of doing it..PERIOD

  • Guest1111

    Every city asheville, raleigh, durham, new bern not to mention Atlanta, Miami, Philadelphia and Boston have parking fees…it is a fact of the infrastructure to a city. It is your loss not to enjoy Friday night free concerts, water tours, great theater and all the other cultural things to do.

  • Das Weibstück

    I wouldn’t go downtown at night unless I had an armed security guard or a very large attack dog.

  • GuestUSMC

    New Bern is a very tourist-friendly city. They have many parking lots where you can leave your car and shop free of charge.

  • ChefnSurf

    … “If I was better informed, why would I want to show my ignorance in the first place?” or “Would my ignorance be of a higher quality if I was better informed before exercising it?” And the answer to my own question is “No.” Oh by the way, in business for myself and used to live on Water Street near Chandler’s Wharf (that enough street credits?).

    “DOWNTOWN” pays more taxes: That’s what I call the old Baby Huey premise. That’s the one where if taxes were assessed according to chair size, and “DOWNTOWN” could be compared to Baby Huey, would it pay more taxes than other areas? Yep. It would also eat much more of the City’s resources. So, lets call that a wash.

    The shortfall is why Wilmington needs this marketing initiative: Here we go again. Another trip through the looking glass into Tax & Spend Land. “Marketing initiative” in this case defined as giving money from Wilmington’s parking fund to “DOWNTOWN” businesses for purposes of their own promotion. Sure, more business would result in more parking revenue. Did it also ever occur to you that with all of these “DOWNTOWN” businesses acting together as the much vaunted “DOWNTOWN” Marketing Taskforce, that by now at least a few of them should have put forward some ideas for promotion that didn’t start with milking Wilmington for $60,000 as their initial starting point? Perhaps “DOWNTOWN” businesses have become so used to breastfeeding off of the City’s teat they’re too sated to even try to find their own food. Perhaps after all this time “DOWNTOWN” businesses feel they’re grandfathered into entitlements. After all, they’re “DOWNTOWN”! In tough times, the tough get creative. They don’t just pour more money into a problem. It’s way past time for a weaning. The deficit will be at least $60,000 better if the monies are left in the fund for actual parking related initiatives instead of contrived ones.

    You apparently think you can spend your way out of deficits. To me, that’s like a gambler going back into the casino to try and recoup his losses by gambling more money. Of course the nice thing about thinking that way is, if you’re wrong, the debt will just get passed along to others as yet unborn. Our Federal Government’s been doing it for years so it must be OK, right?

    Wimington is more than just businessess owners downtown. If “DOWNTOWN” is no longer capable of understanding that, perhaps its time has come and gone.

  • Guest7969

    did you just compare WILMINGTON to Atlanta and Miami…is that you Saffo?…I can get MOST of what you stated at MAYFAIR for FREE…I can get a water tour at WB for FREE…

  • Guest1111

    …move to Greece then.

  • Guester

    Moving out of the United States and city limits is sadly an option more and more legal Americans have considered but are choosing to stand and fight the real problem (government) instead.

    I avoid going downtown simply because it has nothing I want or need, and especially a convention center, future baseball stadium, bars, courthouse, lawyers… The jail even moved out of downtown. LOL.

    The tourist may enjoy a “One-and-Done” trip down there after they’ve paid a room occupancy tax and the Thalian Hall Crowd sure doesn’t strike out across a 4-lane road for a quarter mile walk to the river after dark…

    There is nothing I need down there that I can’t get cheaper and closer (gas savings) without having to pay and walk blocks to it. The Cape Fear river might be a small draw if we weren’t so close to the (not in the city limits) ocean. Good luck “Down-town”.

  • ChefnSurf

    Move to Greece? … Are you kidding me? … You mean the country in Europe that’s spent itself into such a hole that it may take forever to get out of? … The country that may have to back out of the Euro and go back to the Drachma with an exchange rate that almost every other country in the world will be able to take advantage of? … The country where their children’s children will still be paying off their debt? … The county that’s been practicing the very same kind of irresponsible spending that I’ve been against in Wilmington? … What the heck did you think my post was about if it wasn’t about irresponsible spending?

    Perhaps, if you’d taken the time to proofread your “Subject” title, you would have realized that the irresponsible spending system in Greece is exactly what you’ve been advocating for, not me. That’s YOUR end of the spectrum. You really, really don’t get it. Astounding.

  • Guest824

    LOL…parking is so cheap here compared to other cities. I don’t consider it gouging at all.

  • taxpayer

    civic-minded and volunteer over 1000 hours per year with three organizations. How about you? Why would parking need to be marketed? Everyone knows there are meters and parking decks. It’s not as if there’s going to be a “sale” taking place. Yes, on occasion, the parking is free. Those occasions occur as often as full solar eclipse.

    If WDI and DBA were so successful in their professional marketing endeavors…they wouldn’t have their hand out each year come budget time.

    What private enterprise has John Hinnant run successfully?

  • Guest111

    The funds the city is talking about taking monies from is short this year and last year. The money isn’t there that they need. . SO where do you think the money will come from when it comes down to the wire???

  • Truthseeker

    City buffoons again wanting to waste money. These idiots just do not get it and it appears they never will. Personally I do not go downtown because the roads are bumpy, deteriorating and parking is a joke. Plus I hate City Council so bad I do not want to be near their hall. Further there is not one business downtown that I cannot find a similair one outside of downtown. I feel sorry for downtown merchants but the city is led by inept buffoons and I refuse to spend money to increase city coffers just so they can waste it. When city residents wake up and vote these overspending buffoons out of office maybe I’ll have dinner downtown. Maybe!


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