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Merger of Dixon groups back on the table

Organizations will meet later this month

DIXON – A plan to unite the Riverfront Commission with Dixon Main Street and Dixon Tourism re-emerged Tuesday.

A few efforts at such a merger have failed, including one last spring.

Riverfront Commission members agreed Tuesday that a consolidation is worth another look. They admitted the idea got away from them after former Dixon Comptroller Rita Crundwell was arrested in April for stealing nearly $54 million from city accounts.

A public meeting will be scheduled for later this month with up to two representatives from each organization and two city commissioners participating. Mayor Jim Burke will lead the meeting, which would be to determine if services can be consolidated.

Josh Albrecht, executive director of Dixon Main Street, said each organization hosts and promotes events, and raises funds. He said their objectives overlap.

“We can streamline effectiveness and work as a whole,” Albrecht told the commission Tuesday. “Right now, it’s not easy for citizens to navigate which organization is doing what. We’re getting a silo effect. Each entity has its own silo and they are doing their own thing, their own way, rather than seeing the ultimate goal – to promote Dixon.”

Riverfront Chairman Larry Reed drafted a management implementation strategy for Heritage Crossing to get the conversation started among members of the Riverfront Commission.

In this draft, he asked members to consider transferring all maintenance responsibilities to the city of Dixon by 2014, noting that maintenance man John Groshans still can have a big hand in the upkeep of Heritage Crossing.

He also asked members to think about transferring all event operational items to Dixon Main Street by 2014, coordinating all activities with Dixon Tourism and expanding the Dixon Main Street board to have an oversight panel with a member from each of the three entities.

Reed said long-term goals to build a boat dock and a pedestrian bridge over the Rock River have come to a standstill as the commission has had to focus on fundraising enough money to meet maintenance costs.

“I don’t want this just to die at our meeting tonight,” Reed said. “I want to carry it forward and get conversation started. This will change the structure of how we operate.”

Dixon Main Street already has researched how other cities have consolidated their organizations, and its board is excited about a possible united effort, Albrecht said.

Dixon Tourism hasn’t yet been a part of recent discussions.

Commissioner Dennis Considine attended Tuesday’s meeting, and said he and Commissioner Jeff Kuhn also favor having the three groups and the council come together.

“We want to have a transparent process with the public involved,” Considine said. “There is going to be some resistance, but we want to come out of this with a strong unit to succeed.”

A consolidation would put into further question the roles of Riverfront Executive Director Kay Miller and maintenance coordinator Groshans.

Miller is working without pay. Her contract expired in October, when the council voted 4-1 against giving her a monthly pay increase from $200 to $800. Miller already shares an office with Dixon Main Street. Reed said it’s too early to speculate on her role.

“We will have to figure it out,” Reed said. “That’s all going to be part of the discussion.”

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