Leaders to decide use of funds for downtown spots disrupted by construction

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COLUMBIA - The Downtown Leadership Council met Tuesday to decide how to spend fees paid by developers to compensate businesses for the inconvenience caused by construction.

"The funds will also provide signage to let customers know that the business is still open," council chair Scott Wilson said.

The public inconvenience fee allows the city to charge construction companies when they build downtown. When developers apply for a permit to close a city street or to block off a sidewalk they must estimate the length of time they will use the street. 

"So right now they've collected about $15,000 in the last 10 months," Wilson said. "That should go up a lot more because a lot of the development downtown was grandfathered in before the public inconvenience fee came into affect." 

The Downtown Leadership Council hopes the fee can be used to notify the public of street closures and to alert them, not only the length of time, but also how to get around downtown and get to the businesses. 

Brian Coley, owner of Coley's American Bistro, said the city should be more proactive and do more than reimburse businesses. 

"I think the fee shouldn't directly reimburse businesses," he said. "The fee should help businesses prepare for these large construction projects and give them some supplementing funds for promotion to get customers back in." 

Wilson said the goal of the fee is to minimize the effect of construction on businesses downtown.