EDA tweaks grant program

Published 9:54 pm Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Participants in a city grant program will have six months to make changes to their applications under new provisions approved Wednesday.

The Economic Development Authority made the change to the application for its façade grant program, which pays half the cost for external improvements to commercial structures in the city’s downtown, villages and “gateway corridors.” The city’s contribution is capped at $10,000.

The change came after discussions at last month’s meeting that arose from a downtown business owner’s after-the-fact request for more money resulting from an increase in the project cost. The business owner initially had planned a wooden handicap ramp but switched to a concrete one with brick masonry.

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Economic Development Director Kevin Hughes said it was the first time since he has worked for the city that someone had changed the amount in the middle of the project.

“This could be an opportunity for us to tighten the language,” he said last month.

The EDA members voted in November against providing the additional money to the business owner.

“It’s setting a dangerous precedent,” said member Wesley King.

Hughes presented two options to the authority this week. They could either leave the program as is, but explicitly state in the application that no change requests would be granted; or they could give a window of time in which applicants could update the application; or they could come up with some other option.

“I’ve never seen a construction project that didn’t have changes,” member Robert Barclay said. “I think Option B is the recognition of that.”

Barclay noted that the program could not be used as an “endless source of funds” because of the $10,000 cap.

Member Maria Herbert noted that additions to the project also require more investment by the business owner, since the authority pays only half the cost.

“The intent is beautification,” she said. “If they’re electing to do something, their investment is also more.”

The authority voted unanimously to give applicants six months to make changes that increase the cost of the project.