Council to discuss downtown grants

By David Hotle, The JOURNAL


With the first Washington City Council meeting of the year, the council will focus attention on two downtown enhancement grants when it meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Washington Public Library.

Washington City Administrator Brent Hinson said Main Street Washington has recommended two projects for Downtown Enhancement Grants (DIG). He said the projects are Greiner Building?s project to renovate the former Washington Public Library building and for renovation work for the Frontier Family Restaurant. The Greiner grant proposal is $50,000 against a $432,000 project and the Frontier grant is a proposed $40,000 against a $160,000 project.

?They are both great projects,? Hinson said.

In addition to the Washington Incentive Fund (WIF) grants that assist building owners in the downtown area to make improvements to the facades of their businesses, Washington announced a new series of grants aimed at larger improvements to the downtown area last June. Funding for the grants comes from the City of Washington?s municipal grants from the Washington County Riverboat Foundation, and Main Street Washington administers the program, Main Street Washington director Sarah Grunewaldt said

Grunewaldt said in a previous interview the city would be able to give Tax Increment Finance assistance, but the buildings in the downtown area are already assessed at such a low level that not much increment is created. Because of that, Grunewaldt and Washington City Administrator Brent Hinson worked to develop a grant for people with a building in the downtown area in which they will put a large investment into renovating. She said grants can be given for renovation projects in excess of $100,000. The grant will be a 3-1 match. She said $25,000 can be given as a grant for a $100,000 project. Grunewaldt said Main Street is the recommending agent and the city will decide who is given the grants once the city grants an occupancy permit. Grants can be up to $50,000 for larger projects.

She said since the WIF was developed over 10 years ago, the program has granted about $300,000 in grants and created over $8 million in projects in the downtown area.

Additionally, two new members will be sworn onto the council and veteran council member Jaron Rosien will be sworn in as mayor during the meeting. During the November election, candidate Fran Stigers was elected to the ward 4 seat and Elaine Moore was selected as an at-large council member. Council member Steve Gault ran unopposed to keep his ward 2 seat.