Leesburg partnership gets a boost from the city

LEESBURG – City commissioners on Monday evening unanimously approved a nearly $ 150,000 financial aid plan for the Leesburg partnership after the nonprofit was forced to cancel Bike festival amid the coronavirus pandemic.

After a long and sometimes heated and gloomy discussion about the future of the Main Street program, the board of directors agreed to loan the partnership $ 78,120 at 0% interest and begin the process of buying a parking lot at the association for approximately $ 60,000.

The commission also agreed to forgive utility bills until April 2021, which is expected to cost the city $ 7,500, as well as a $ 3,500 bill for emergency services provided to the fundraiser. Mardi Gras of the association.

In total, the city has agreed to spend approximately $ 149,120 to help the partnership.

The partnership, which turned 25 last year, hosts 34 community events in Leesburg each year, including the town’s 4th of July celebration, the Craft Beer, Wine & Food Fest, and the Christmas Parade. The biggest is Bikefest – the world’s largest three-day motorcycle and music festival – which has a huge local and regional economic impact.

As most Main Street programs do to promote local membership, the partnership relies on thousands of volunteers and employs only three full-time staff.

And as the name suggests, the organization is also a partner of the city as well as other local organizations and works to promote businesses.

For example, the partnership co-organized the city center master plan meetings with the city throughout the visualization process. The partnership serves as a support organization for smaller nonprofits, including the Leesburg Center for the Arts.

And when the coronavirus began sweeping the country and wreaking havoc on local restaurants, the partnership quickly established a curbside takeout lane and promoted it on social media. Some local restaurateurs have credited this program for their survival.

In March, the canceled Bikefest partnership, which was originally scheduled for April 23-25, after the CDC issued early recommendations for large events.

“The partnership was in a position where they were getting ready for Bikefest, the money they had, they had committed deposits for entertainment and the like,” Leesburg city manager Al Minner said at the meeting. “The cancellation of Bikefest was essentially the only strike that financially crippled the organization.”

Then last week, the partnership put the event back in pencil on the calendar from November 13 to 15.

But some of the money has already been spent. The commission loan will cover the installments of the Bikefest entertainment partnership, including headlining groups as well as production and sound companies. These contracts are still in place and have been extended for the new Bikefest date.

Under interim conditions, the loan of $ 78,120 would begin to be repaid on May 1, 2021 on a monthly interest-free basis.

Another part of the assistance is the sale of the parking lot behind the downtown partnership building. Estimates show that the land is worth between $ 6.30 and $ 6.90 per square foot, meaning the city could pay between $ 57,834 and $ 63,334 for the 9,180 square foot lot.

The partnership initially asked the city to guarantee that the lot would remain a lot as well as maintain the existing $ 30,000 line of credit that the partnership has with the city for the lot. But the commission rejected both stipulations. Commissioners agreed they did not want restrictions on city property.

This lot purchase will come back to the commission for further approval.

Already, the partnership is working less than usual. A “quarantine budget” in city documents shows monthly expenses of $ 21,984, including $ 19,137 from a federal loan from the Paycheck Protection Program to cover payroll. CEO Joe Shipes suffered a 30% pay cut, documents show.

Typically, the monthly budget for the partnership is around $ 30,000.

Once PPP funds are used up, the association will lay off two of its three full-time employees: Main Street Manager Joanie Smalley and COO Cathie Reel.

“It’s so sad,” Shipes said. “They have worked so hard over the years. We all do the right thing and never say no to anyone.

The committee’s discussion centered on the survival of the partnership and Jay Hurley was the most vocal.

“I’m actually surprised we’re having this discussion this way,” said Hurley, speaking first on the matter. “After twenty years of partnership overseeing all aspects of the quality of life that we do in regards to events in town, we are essentially giving them $ 11,000. This is what we do.

“We’re buying a property, so it’s a big deal,” he continued. “We’re going to give them a loan that they have to pay back for $ 70,000 … Let’s call it that, guys: if that happens, that will be the end of the partnership.” “

Commissioner Mike Pederson echoed much of Hurley’s statements, summing them up succinctly.

“We need the partnership to survive,” he said.

Later in the meeting, Hurley directly asked the chairman of the partnership’s board, Sandy Stokes, if he thought the package was a band-aid.

“My blunt answer is, it’s a bandage,” Stokes replied. “It does two things: it gives us enough liquidity, without going into the sale of the parking lot …

Stokes explained that after each Bikefest, the partnership has a few hundred thousand dollars to help it get through the year.

“So this will reduce the cash flow of the partnership,” he said.

Commissioner Dan Robuck III said he had mixed feelings about the package. He began by saying that the partnership has done the city a lot of good, but that he thinks the partnership should have had stronger reserves.

“I think it’s a good compromise,” said Robuck. “I think it keeps the organization intact in a way that allows them to scale up when the going comes right.”

Regarding reserves, Stokes said the partnership had approximately $ 135,000 in reserves at the end of the previous fiscal year. But a large part of this money, like every year, is linked to the preparation of the Bikefest.

Commissioner John Christian said he believed aid could be a slippery slope.

“I can see the Chamber of Commerce coming at the next meeting, the Arts Center next month and the CDC next month… saying the same things,” he said.

Christian also suggested that the partnership present a plan to the city that showed the organization was building its reserves.

Mayor Elise Dennison said she too was concerned about the request.

“If the Bikefest in the fall doesn’t happen, or even if it does, when do you come back for more money? She asked Stokes directly.

“Never, I hope,” he replied.

“Do you have the funds to go ahead and put this?” She followed.

“I think we have the funds to organize the next Bikefest,” he said, explaining that much of the entertainment is already paid for. “This is simple, but it’s a lifeline that you will hopefully give us and we appreciate it. “

Still, concerns remain that the rescheduled Bikefest 2020 might not happen at all.

The coronavirus continues to spread around the world. And as states and countries strive to get back to normal, it’s unclear when that might be or what “normal” will look like in the future.

And events like Bikefest are caught in the crosshairs.

“These are uncertain times,” said Shipes.

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