By Dean Dalvit
It was disheartening to see George Long’s seemingly accusatory letter in last week’s Courier. I was surprised that Mr. Long was unable to find any information about the Downtown Evergreen Economic District and its voluntary 1 percent fund-raising program, the Evergreen Legacy Fund, before writing his letter. However, he poses excellent questions, and we are happy to respond. It’s always good to remind the community about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. So, to answer each of Mr. Long’s questions:
ELF is not a tax and is not administered by a governmental authority. It is a voluntary 1 percent contribution on the sale of goods and services by member businesses. Businesses elect to be members, and customers can opt out if they desire, as clearly disclosed on the signs posted in every member business. We decided to do it this way because, in addition to being legally compliant, we feel consumers should have a choice, and preserving downtown Evergreen should be a community effort.
The fund also includes outright donations from individuals and businesses who support the cause. Oversight of the program and funds is through the DEED board, which is made up of equal proportions of business owners, property owners and Evergreen residents. We do not have any interest in creating a bureaucracy. Instead, we want the money to be spent directly on projects, and we have the best, most capable collection of leaders in Evergreen to fulfill this mission.
DEED board members have voluntarily stepped up to take on the responsibility to be stewards of downtown Evergreen and its infrastructure for the sake of public safety, public enjoyment, economic sustainability, and the preservation of Evergreen for future generations to enjoy. DEED works with the ELF members as well as the greater community for all of our endeavors.
The ELF funds are used specifically for infrastructure projects that downtown Evergreen so desperately needs. Evergreen is not incorporated and therefore has no means to address projects like sidewalks, parking, restrooms, etc. The lake trail project is an example where we secured a $250,000 GOCO grant with EPRD to build the connection between the lake and downtown. We received another grant with Jefferson County for a master plan that will inform the next several years of projects. Every grant requires a cash match. We leverage the ELF dollars and multiply them up to 10 times through these grants in order to get these projects built.
ELF funds are managed by DEED through our accountant (and ELF member) Valentine Seevers and Associates. Evergreen National Bank collects the funds in a nonprofit account. Not one cent has been spent for any of our time for the thousands of hours we’ve spent setting up ELF, building membership, identifying projects, partnering with other agencies, writing grants, winning grants, administering projects, presenting to community groups and town hall meetings, and responding to letters just like this one.
Public disclosure is on our website, evergreenlegacyfund.org, our signs and fliers, and in every meeting and presentation we give. We are an open group — if anyone wants to know anything, just ask us, or an ELF member, or the EDBA, or the chamber, or just about anyone else engaged in Evergreen! We love to get participation and input from the community.
Our public relations is 100 percent volunteer through our board and is therefore very grassroots. We don’t want to spend the funds on anything but projects. There have been literally dozens of articles about us and our projects in the Courier, YourHub and Justaroundhere.com. We are also working partners with the EDBA, EPRD, Evergreen chamber, CAE, Jeffco T&E, Jeffco P&Z, JCOS, EMD, CDOT and every business and property owner in the greater Downtown Evergreen area. We have presented directly to community groups and in town hall meetings. We have even won awards and recognition for our efforts. Remember that we also have our own businesses to run, and we do this all in our free time, none of which is compensated.
I hope this addresses Mr. Long’s questions to his satisfaction. If not, I welcome him to come to my office downtown, and I will personally refund his 40 cents or so that he spent that evening at dinner.
In his letter, Mr. Long urges residents to think twice before paying the voluntary fee. I would like to urge the very same. Think twice: First, to acknowledge the businesses that have made a commitment to improving our downtown (and thank them for doing so), and second, to reflect on their own commitment by shopping local and supporting this important fund just a few cents at a time.
Dean Dalvit is the president of the Downtown Evergreen Economic District.