According to some, personality conflicts are to blame for the recent withdrawal of a grant for downtown Parkville renewal efforts. In a letter dated Dec. 11, Missouri Main Street Connection executive director Gayla Roten recalled the approximately $40,000 People Energizing Places (PEP) grant, stating, “It is apparent that the community is struggling with coming together to be able to put in the appropriate time and energy into carrying out the goals and objectives for a united community revitalization plan.”
The letter came just two days after a representative from Branson-based Missouri Main Street Connection witnessed the Dec. 9 Main Street Parkville Association (MSPA) board elections, where incumbent chair Troy Wilson was not re-elected. Alisha Blackwelder was instead elected as the new chair but has since resigned the position.
Neither have responded to The Citizen’s request for comment.
Former MSPA board chair Tom Hutsler characterized the election as an attempted coup by Parkville mayor Nan Johnston. In her letter, Roten stated her organization could not and would not take sides in the dispute, which is the latest in a long history of infighting between various organizations, or organizations and the city itself.
“In respect of your time and dollars, we declined in moving forward with the PEP grant until the current situation that Main Street Parkville finds itself in has changed,” Roten wrote. “This situation goes deeper than just the election, and with the many texts and emails received with ‘he did this’ or ‘she said this’ … clearly you must see how I came to this decision.”
In November, the City of Parkville approved a cost-sharing agreement with the MSPA for a local match for the grant, which helps main street organizations throughout the state gain additional training and expert guidance. The program includes assessments, a community charrette, development of an action plan and technical visits to evaluate topics such as tourism, business consultation and event development.
Missouri Main Street covers 75 percent of program costs, asking the community to contribute $9,600 to the two-year program.
MSPA asked the city and the Parkville Old Towne Market Community Improvement District (POTCMID) to partner on the application and equally share the cost at $3,200 apiece. With the application due on Nov. 15, the POTCMID board of directors had not yet acted on the request and MSPA asked the city to cover up to $4,800 to ensure the city could meet grant requirements.
On a split vote, the city did just that.
Johnston issued an appeal to Missouri Main Street Connection to reconsider on Dec. 14.
“The election held on Dec. 9, 2015, was conducted transparently and in accordance with the MSPA bylaws,” Johnston wrote. “I understand that some may be disappointed with the outcome, but the process was fair. When Troy Wilson was not elected as chair, I personally made a motion to nominate him for the treasurer position in an effort to preserve his involvement and bring people together.”
Not all members in the board are in agreement, however.
“I would like to have the grant, just like everyone else,” Parkville alderman David Jones said. “I can’t really disagree why they are not awarding it to Parkville. The letter is from the mayor, so it is her request to re-consider. I just want to make sure that it is clear not 100 percent of the board feels this way (I realize I may be on my own).
“It takes two sides to argue and until that is resolved the city (not just downtown or city hall) suffers.” Hutsler, who said he did not attend the Dec. 9 meeting, also disagrees with Johnston’s assertions.
“I believe the grant was withdrawn because the city mayor is trying to influence MSPA using tactics of harassment of MSPA volunteers,” Hutsler said, and cited the city’s ongoing disagreement with the POTCMID.
Twice in the last decade, the city has rejected the CID board’s slate of candidates for service.
“In short, politics has infiltrated a very successful Main Street Program that has been around since 1994,” Hutsler said. “MSPA needs to stand on its own, it has for the last 20 years. The residents of Parkville need to vote for a mayor that has leadership ability — someone who can work with the community that they are there to serve. The business owners of downtown Parkville, many of whom are also residents of Parkville, deserve the respect of the elected officials.
“The continual browbeating of volunteers of the various non-profit boards needs to stop.”
MSPA is scheduled to hold a new officer election meeting in January.