Newly elected council: ‘Withdraw proposal’

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In October, the Vevay Town Council agreed to move forward with plans to apply to the Office of Community and Rural Affairs for a grant to aid in the creation of a Streetscape Project for downtown Vevay.

At that meeting, members of the community voiced their concern that, should the town get the grant, all of the town’s resources and reserve funds would go into the project, leaving the community without a “safety net”. Also at odds was a portion of the grant application that stated that the town would borrow over $900,000 to help with the project.

At that time, town council member Kirk Works said that the town wouldn’t really be borrowing that much, since the County had promised $600,000 and that he was pursuing a grant from the Paul Ogle Foundation for much of the remainder.

After discussion, the town council voted to proceed with filing the grant through the Southeastern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, with the understanding that should a new board feel differently after the town elections on November 8th, it could be rescinded.

At the meeting, Mary McCarty from the Southeastern Indiana Regional Planning Commission said that the town could choose to decline the funds, but noted that it could seriously jeopardize any attempts to secure grants in the future, since there were five applicants and only two would be funded, meaning that Vevay’s decision to not accept the funds would keep another community from starting its project.

After the November election, new town council members Keith Smith and Josh South were elected to join current member Jamie Hayes for four year terms beginning this January 1st.

With the announcement of the grant winners set for December 19th, the new town council developed a plan – withdraw the application before the recipients are announced, thus giving the other four applicants a chance to secure the funds.

Last Tuesday, at a meeting of the current town council, members-elect Keith Smith and Josh South presented that plan to the current board.

Council President Tye Sullivan was not at the meeting, but members Kirk Works and Jamie Hayes were, and although it was noted that the new town council does not want the grant, the current town council wants to speak to Southeastern Indiana Regional Planning before making any decision.

The town set a special meeting for this Wednesday, December 7th to make a final decision.

“It’s obvious to us that the majority of the people in the community don’t want us to pursue this grant,” Keith Smith said. “It’s committing all of our resources without anything to fall back on if we have a problem. I just can’t see doing this.”

“We agree that Streetscape is a valuable project to the town of Vevay, yet we feel that there are other projects that need consideration before allocating the funds wholly to the Streetscape project,” Josh South wrote in a letter to the town council.

The new council’s motive is simple: if being awarded the grant and then turning it back in will hurt future grant applications; then withdraw the application before the decision is made so that the state can award the funds to other areas.

Also at issue is the decision to completely close Vevay Hill to all traffic for more than a year beginning in April of 2012. With the hill closed and all of downtown torn up for the Streetscape project, it would be a long 18 months for residents and visitors.

Mary McCarty said that there are no issues with the town rescinding its grant application prior to the public awarding of the grant.

“There’s really not a formal process,” Mary McCarty said. “I would assume they would simply have to write a letter requesting that they pull the application. There’s not a form to fill out or any other type of process for that.”

Mary McCarty said that such a letter would be written and submitted by the elected officials who are in office at the time the request is made; so even though it is the newly-elected council who wants to withdraw the application, it is the current board that would have to officially make that request.

“Because the announcement date is December 19th, the new board would not yet have the authority to do that, it would have to be the existing board,” Mary McCarty said. “The ones who voted to apply for it.”

As for how the withdrawal of the application would impact the town’s chances for future grants, Mary McCarty said that the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs does not have any written policy on such a decision, so it is hard to her to say how this would impact the community.

“There would be no reason why you couldn’t pull it now as opposed to later,” she said. “How they would look at that, I don’t want to speak for them, because I’m not them. Both are options. If you were the next project that put in years of work and you were the next project to be funded, I think you would want to know. It could delay that other project a year that wants funding.”

Mary McCarty said that she’s been dealing with grants for 13 years and this is the first time she’s ever had to deal with this issue, so it’s not something that any entity deals with on a regular basis.

“It’s doable, it can be done either way,” she said.