Archive for Thursday, January 17, 2002

Downtown grant application under way

January 17, 2002

Brick crosswalks, old-fashioned lampposts and colorful awnings offer visible evidence of downtown Tonganoxie's transformation, thanks to a state grant to develop Fourth Street.

But cities like Tonganoxie do more with their grant than just a superficial facelift. Visual changes are only a small part of what such grants can accomplish.

"I'm hoping we can accomplish something more substantial," said Mayor Ron Conner. "(Tonganoxie) did some upgrades on buildings."

Conner and a group of Eudorans representing the city, school district, Eudora Chamber of Commerce and downtown businesses are applying for a community development block grant from the Kansas Department of Commerce and Housing. The group is using Tonganoxie's application as a model.

Eudora is applying for $4 million that became available at the beginning of the month. Because the applications have no deadline, grant program manager Marilyn Graham said cities were ultimately in charge of when they applied.

"There's no definite time frame," she said, "just whatever is needed to work through the application process."

The state will offer the money until new funds are available next fiscal year or until it has awarded all of this year's funds. Graham said the most any city received was $2.1 million since the program started in 1995. Applications, like the one under way in Eudora, get some help from KDOC&H, too.

"It's not a simple process," Graham said. "It's not a matter of submitting an application and getting funded. A lot of cooperation takes place."

Some of that cooperation, Conner said, came from the consulting firm assisting the city in long-range planning.

"A fair amount of paperwork (that) has to be filled out can be information available through Bucher, Willis and Ratliff," he said. "Some of the work they're doing and putting togetherjust rolls into the application."

The group hadn't yet decided exactly what it would do with the grant, Conner said.

"As the process goes along, you get more and more detailed," he said. "To be honest, we're hoping that some improvements of the middle school can roll in this grant, and also do some things right along Main Street."

In addition, Conner said, organizers and the city need to decide if the city would match funding from the grant. When Graham spoke to the Eudora City Council in June 2001 she said the organization looked more favorably on cities that matched funding.

Moreover, she said, cities need to meet the grant's requirements, like eliminating slums and blight a goal beyond a few superficial improvements.

"It just has to fit the criteria of the program," Graham said. "Why would a low- and moderate-income person benefit from a park bench and a flower?"

The group is currently focused on downtown businesses, Conner said, but downtown neighborhoods might be included in the future.

The group will meet again Jan. 24.

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