PASCO -- Pasco's plans to take over efforts to transform its downtown are taking longer than the city expected.
That's why the volunteer group of Pasco business owners and leaders who have spent decades trying to develop downtown plans to continue on for a few more months.
Pasco created the Downtown Pasco Development Authority in December, intending for the public corporation to take over the association's role in March.
Council members had said that the association wasn't making fast enough progress in its mission to improve Pasco's downtown.
But as the Pasco Farmers Market prepared to open for the season Saturday, volunteer members of the Pasco Downtown Development Association executive committee still were in charge.
PDDA president Dennis Gisi said he and the committee agreed to keep going until the end of June. Committee members include Gloria Garcia, vice president and executive director; Chris Martinson, secretary/treasurer; Mauricio Alcaraz, owner of Mi Hacienda Restaurant & Grill; and Rhonda Alberts.
Gisi said PDDA board already was disbanded. He said that the members decided there wasn't room for two organizations focused on downtown. They planned to wind down and hand operations over to the city April 1.
"We felt like we were taking the high road," Gisi said.
But the city wasn't ready yet to take over the management of the farmers market and the Pasco Specialty Kitchen, he said.
Pasco City Manager Gary Crutchfield said the process of setting up a board for the new corporation has taken about six weeks longer than expected, between soliciting applications and getting more information from the 16 downtown business and property owners who applied.
The city council will interview five of the applicants today and consider appointing them the next week, Crutchfield said.
The city needs at least five of the nine-member board appointed so the board can organize the corporation and begin the search for an executive director, he said.
That search could take three months.
Crutchfield said the city intends to keep the farmers market and specialty kitchen going. Any improvements will be considered after the public authority is in place.
"I don't see a lot of change this year," he said.
Crutchfield said it likely will be another year before changes start and another two to three years before seeing results.
Victoria Silvernail, Pasco Specialty Kitchen executive director, said that she applauds the downtown development association for being willing to help with the transition and keep the market and kitchen going until the new agency is in place.
That's essential to making the transition smooth, which is what Silvernail said seems to be happening.
The Pasco Specialty Kitchen helps small businesses start and provides support year-round with everything from business plans to marketing.
Gisi said the PDDA will continue to do what it can to help with the transition, including extending its operation past June if the city needs them to.
Still, he has some concerns about how well the public authority will work. He foresees some conflicts of interest among the city and downtown businesses, and is concerned downtown business owners won't get involved enough.
Eulogio Zarate, a manager at Viera's Bakery, said he has reservations about the city taking over downtown efforts. "I don't think it's going to be the same," he said.
He would like to see more downtown events like he remembers from previous years, and an investment in improvements such as repairing the fountain in the courtyard near the bakery.
"The city needs to wake up and do something about downtown," Zarate said.
Viera's Bakery was in the facade program the PDDA operated using a federal grant, but Zarate said the bakery dropped out because there wasn't any action. Instead, he said they intend to remodel their facade on their own.
Gisi said he believes businesses already scheduled to get new facades still will get them.
However, the PDDA's annual Fiery Foods Festival likely won't continue. Festival organizers already had taken last year off to redesign the event.
Crutchfield said the public authority will be looking at the future of the downtown festivals.