On Tuesday, Eighth District City Councilwoman Cindy Bass named nine community members and business leaders to the interim board of the Germantown Special Services District (GSSD).
The tax-levying entity has authority to assess fees on businesses, which is placed in a fund and utilized for the maintenance and security of Germantown and Chelten Avenue business corridors.
Bass spokesman Joe Corrigan said the ultimate goal is cleaner and safer streets which would create a vibrant commercial corridor which would attract shoppers from across the city, like in days of old.
Ultimately, he said, it is up to the community and the changes they would like to see.
“This is an ongoing process and it’s not going to happen overnight but this is a big step in moving Germantown forward,” he said. “I think from list that you see, people will understand that the councilwoman wants different opinions, point of views and backgrounds at the table.”
The back story
From 1995 — when the GSSD was created through a city ordinance — through 2011, the program received funding from the city’s Commerce Department in the form of annual grants.
On paper, area businesses were expected to carry the remainder of the budget via assessments, similar to the Center City District.
That equation, however, never completely panned out in practice. The result, according to former GSSD officials, was a constant scramble for cash and, eventually, a completely volunteer staff.
Commerce officials kept a close eye on the program, but eventually no longer saw merit. This latest announcement marks a resuscitation of sorts.
Bass’ office said members were selected based on community involvement while recognizing the diversity in Germantown. The interim board includes:
• Irv Ackelsberg, Germantown Community Connection
• Robert Bembry, Office of Councillwoman Cindy Bass
• John Churchville, Greater Germantown Business Association
• Sylvie Gallier Howard, Germantown resident
• Marcus Heppinstall, Heppinstall Hair Studio
• John S. Lee, Chelten Hair Inc.
• Earlene Lightfoot, Philadelphia Hair Co.
• Cornelia Swinson, Germantown Restoration CDC
• Robert Wheeler, Wired Beans Café
When the interim board convenes, the process of picking six additional members of the 15-person board will begin.