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No red carpet, though cordial

The last time Greater New Port Richey Main Street came to the City Council, the meeting was tense and the group's funding came into question.

But late into Tuesday evening, the City Council and Main Street board members were having a low-key discussion about downtown festivals, fuzzy budget numbers and the fate of empty commercial properties. Council members appeared poised to continue funding the program for the remainder of the fiscal year.

Main Street director Judy DeBella Thomas, who was grilled on her figures in October, did not attend because she needed to be with her ailing mother, said her husband, Ted Thomas.

The themes of downtown festivals emerged as an issue. Council member Tom Lackey, noting a NASCAR exhibit at the Founders Day event, asked: "How does NASCAR fit in with Founders Day?"

The group's vice president, Matthew Potter, said organizers were trying to appeal to younger people.

"It becomes a science to putting these things together," said Potter. "Those are attempts to try to make an event that's going to provide an overall family experience."

To which Lackey replied: "To me, Founders Day would be splitting logs and building log homes."

Deputy Mayor Matthew McCaffery said Tuesday that Main Street and the city should divide the tasks involved in bringing the downtown to life.

"Main Street should focus on the businesses that are there," he said. "I think the job of recruiting should go to the city. It's too big a job for Main Street to handle."

The city had already budgeted $45,000 for the downtown program, but that funding turned questionable after an October meeting in which Thomas could not answer questions about Main Street's finances and membership. At that time, council members also criticized Main Street for focusing too heavily on running festivals unpopular with local merchants and residents while neglecting business recruitment.

The council agreed in October to give Greater New Port Richey Main Street $3,750 a month through the end of this year, but withheld committing to the rest of the funding, pending the outcome of Tuesday night's meeting.

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