The Dawn Theater on North Broad Street in downtown Hillsdale. Julia Mullins | Col­legian

The Hillsdale City Council voted 5 – 3 to approve a loan on Monday night that will help the general con­tractor com­plete ren­o­va­tions on the Dawn Theater. 

The loan will be granted to the Tax Increment Finance Authority and will come from the Hillsdale Board of Public Util­ities’ budget.

The purpose of the five-year loan is to alle­viate potential problems with receiving grant money from the Michigan Eco­nomic Devel­opment Cor­po­ration and to pay Foulke Con­struction for com­pleting the project. 

TIFA members spoke at the meeting, saying the city would be paid back within the five-year time period and that the loan is only nec­essary to finance the deal with Foulke Con­struction. 

Coun­cilman Ray Briner agreed that there was little risk with the investment.

“TIFA has the funds to pay for the project with the money that they will receive,” he said. “This is just kind of insurance if they need the money, so there’s no risk involved what­soever.”

Coun­cilman Bill Zeiser pro­posed short­ening the term to less than five years to get the money paid back quicker. 

The council dis­cussed short­ening the term but agreed to keep the five-year due date because many of the TIFA board members are business owners who they trust to be finan­cially respon­sible.

Mayor Adam Stockford addressed the con­cerns of some cit­izens and expressed his hes­i­tation with “looking at the gov­ernment as a banking tool.”

Stockford said he is critical of gov­ernment agencies but sees ben­efits to TIFA. 

“I haven’t always liked the way the TIFA system has worked, but I’ve come to peace with it,” Stockford said. “I really like that they capture tax revenue that the city wouldn’t nor­mally get to keep.”

Stockford acknowl­edged that while he isn’t on the board, he appre­ciates its members’ com­mitment to improving the city.

“The ball is in our court to use money which is for public utility,” he said. “I’ve been asking for years for the Board of Public Util­ities pilot payment to be raised another percent to be used on the roads, and have been told they don’t have the oper­ating money to do that. 

But here’s a couple hundred thousand dollars that we have that could go some­place else.”

Stockford said cit­izens have other needs and it’s hard to justify the Dawn Theater as his top pri­ority. 

“It’s really, really dif­ficult for me to talk to res­i­dents of this city and tell them that we’re putting money into this project,” he said. “And we’re not putting it in roads or fire trucks.”

After 30 minutes of dis­cussion, the council voted on the five-year loan. Stockford, Zeiser, and coun­cil­woman Cynthia Pratt opposed the funding.