Vevay Town Council approves grant application for ‘Streetscape’ project

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After some discussion about how the grant would impact the next town council and town finances in general, members of the Vevay Town Council approved for the Southeastern Indiana Regional Planning Commission to apply for a grant of $250,000 in its behalf last Wednesday.

If approved, the funds from the grant would go to help fund the town’s “Streetscape” project, which would upgrade and beautify downtown. The state grant would come from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs.

But approving the application didn’t come without some concerns.

Jodi Comer of the Southeastern Indiana Regional Planning Commission told the audience during the public hearing on the grant that the total project cost is $2,410,000 – with a local match of $2,150,000, which will come from a variety of sources.

“I think that’s a positive thing,” Jodi Comer said of the variety of entities helping fund the project. “I think that shows a lot of support for the grant.”

Town Council member Jamie Hayes said that he was concerned about the town committing nearly all of its cash reserves and resources to this project, if it is approved.

“I’ve had a lot of people call and ask me since it was in the paper,” Jamie Hayes asked Jodi Comer. “Not all of that that was in the paper has been approved by the town, right? That’s what people assumed when they read that. That we’ve already approved using those funds. I know we discussed it a couple of years back, but I don’t remember us approving that.”

Jodi Comer said that all of the funding sources for the matching portion of the project were listed in the paper.

Council President Tye Sullivan asked if the county’s commitment of $600,000 was included in the list that was published.

“No, you can’t put it down until you get a letter of commitment,” Jodi Comer said. “Right now we have a letter from them for $80,000, so that’s all we can show.”

“They’ve committed the money, but we can’t show it because it’s not readily available,” Town Councilman Kirk Works said. “They have approved the $600,000 after they pay off the YMCA building. Since it’s not here now, we can’t show it in the grant. We will get that in 2013 or 2014, when it becomes available.”

“All I’m saying is whether it’s this board or the next one coming on, that’s never been approved,” Jamie Hayes said. “I’ve had people ask me how we can spend all the town’s money and still borrow $900,000.”

“Well, you have passed a resolution committing the money,” Jodi Comer said. “You did that on the previous grant application. We have commitment letters from everyone.”

“We committed those funds two years ago or three years ago – whenever that time period was,” Kirk Works said.

“My only question is borrowing the $900,000; after we’re using all of our CD’s, using the balance in our gaming fund, and using the BESI money (money paid by BESI manufacturing to purchase the former shoe factory building from the town and the town keeps in reserve),” Town Clerk-Treasurer Donna Graham said.

“Yes, but it’s not benefiting anybody in town,” Kirk Works said of the BESI money and the CDs. “It only benefits the bank, because it just sits there.”

“I’m not against Streetscape,” Jamie Hayes said. “I’m just saying that I’m not sure we should commit every dollar that the town has.”

“I’m just not sure about borrowing the $910,000,” Donna Graham said.

“Well, we’ve got $600,000 from the county, that will be there; and I’m hoping to get $300,000 from the Ogle Foundation,” Kirk Works said. “If we get that money, that will pay the loan amount. So we would have that loan paid for. We’ve already got the county commitment, so that much of the loan is paid for.”

Jodi Comer said that the announcement of which communities are getting the grants will be made on December 19th, and she noted that five communities are applying for the funds, and two will be funded. She said that the community’s standing with the MainStreet program at the state and national levels will also help with the grant application.

Pete Furnish asked when the money would actually be committed.

Jodi Comer said that in applying for the grant, the various entities who have written letters committing funds to help with the project have committed those funds based on the town being awarded the grant.

“You’ll find out on December 19th, and they’ll start sending grant agreements out in January,” Jodi Comer said. “You won’t have to have this money in the bank until you release the funds, which would be February or March of next year at the soonest.”

“So in this resolution, we’re going to say that we’re going to borrow $900,000, just because we can’t say that the county is going to give us $600,000?” Jamie Hayes said.

“Yes,” Jodi Comer answered.

“So, if something happens – and I’m not saying it will – and they can’t give us the $600,000, then we’re on the hook to borrow $900,000,” Jamie Hayes continued.

“That’s right,” Jodi Comer answered.

“You said that the grant would be awarded in December and the grant agreements won’t come until January,” Tye Sullivan said. “At that time, if there are three other people sitting at this table (town council election is set for November 8th), could that contract be breached? Could they decide not to proceed?”

“Yes, if you put in for it, and when it’s awarded there were three different people sitting here and they decide not to sign the grant agreement, then you don’t and that money would get turned back in,” Jodi Comer said. “It would seriously diminish your chances of ever getting that money again, but you can, for sure.”

“So they can decide not to go forward?” Jamie Hayes said.

“I think our concern is financially tying the new board to any ideas that we have,” Tye Sullivan said. “Two years ago we thought that we would be at the final stages of having downtown completed, and now we’re still applying for funds.”

“In a small town like this where every penny is needed, I’d just feel bad to lay that kind of burden on the next board,” Jamie Hayes said.

After confirmation that a new board could decide not to take the grant money, the current members of the town council voted to allow the Southeastern Regional Planning Commission to go ahead with submission of the grant.