AMSA director resigns

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 April 2013 at 12:00 am

Olson will stay on as volunteer interim director

ALBION – The executive director of the Albion Main Street Alliance resigned from the paid position because the organization faces too much funding uncertainty.

Katelin Olson submitted her letter of resignation on April 1. She agreed to stay on in an unpaid role and complete administration of a $477,000 Main Street grant approved by the state in December 2011. That grant gave AMSA and the town of Albion two years to implement building improvements and $50,000 worth of street-scape enhancements.

Olson wrote the grant that was awarded state funding, and provided leadership to teams of volunteers with several community projects. Maarit Vaga, the AMSA board president, said the organization welcomes volunteers to keep working towards a mission of a more vibrant community.

She said Olson deserves “profound thanks for her hard work, perseverance, dedication and outstanding achievements.”

Albion Mayor Dean Theodorakos commended Olson for making an impact on the village and the historic downtown.

“They did a lot of good things,” Theodorakos said on Sunday. “The Main Street grant is a huge and tangible accomplishment and they can point to it as a success.”

Theodorakos served on AMSA’s board in the first two years after the group started in 2009. He supports National Trust’s “four-point” approach for revitalizing Main Street – organization, promotion, design and economic restructuring.

“I’m all for that model,” Theodorakos said. “But how can we make it work?”

He wants to see AMSA continue, and draw in more merchants, building owners and other community volunteers.

AMSA has several initiatives in the works for 2013, including the completion of the building and street-scape projects. The organization will be highlighted at two national conferences – in San Francsico and New Orleans – this month for its partnership with Albion Central School.

Olson is in a doctoral program Cornell University. Many of her fellow students, learning about historic preservation and community development, will be in Albion April 18-21 working on local projects.

The organization started four years ago and received $30,000 in municipal funding each of the first three years with $10,000 each coming from the village, town and the local development corporation of the Orleans Economic Development Agency. The EDA pledged $10,000 for the first three years as part of Albion’s application to become a Main Street community that would adopt principles by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The EDA stated from the start it planned to make a three-year commitment to the program. The Town Board last year in a 3-2 vote eliminated its funding to AMSA, with some town officials saying the organization was too focused on the downtown and not the overall community.

The Village Board continued its $10,000 commitment for a fourth year, but hasn’t included money for AMSA in the 2013-14 budget. The board is looking at all expenses in a tight budget, Theodorakos said. The board also wasn’t sure about AMSA’s direction for the coming year.

Vaga said AMSA is at a “crossroads,” but she sees momentum with several downtown projects. She urged more community members to join AMSA to help advance projects, including waterfront development, more downtown work and other community events that bring visitors to Albion.

“The possibility of a vibrant and thriving Albion still lies before us but that promise can only be achieved through cooperation, committed support and shared vision,” Vaga said.

Editor’s note: Tom Rivers is the Design chairman for AMSA.