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Public Hearing on Main Street Grant Held During City Council

August 9, 2011
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08/10/11 The Plymouth Common Council held a public hearing on Monday night that marks one of the first formal actions to apply for a Main Street grant. At the July 25 meeting, City Attorney Nelson Chipman requested the public hearing, although a committee striving to identify specific projects had not yet come to a consensus. The application for the federal grant that is administered through the office of Community and Rural Affairs in Indiana is not due until October of this year; however the project proposal must be submitted by August 15.

Main Street is a national program that helps to support the preservation of downtown historical buildings as well as promoting business retention and improvements. Main Street has a four point approach to helping communities achieve some of their goals including design, organization, promotion, and economic restructuring.

According to information found on a website devoted toPlymouthdowntown businesses (downtownplymouth.net), the downtown area was basically defined several years ago by a study commissioned by the city. Those boundaries were north to and including both sides ofJefferson St., eastto the yellow river, south to the viaduct, and west to the railroad tracks.

Speaking on the project was local architect Brent Martin and Marshall County Economic Development Corporation Director Jennifer Laurent.

According to Laurent, there is a maximum of $1million allocated per year and the maximum amount per grant is $250,000. If the City were to obtain a grant in one of the two rounds of awards, they would be responsible for 20 percent of the project costs. The City’s match could be in-kind donations as well as actual dollars.

Laurent said, “We definitely need community consensus.”

Laurent said the criteria for the grant are “slum and blighted areas”. She added, “That simply means preservation of buildings that otherwise would not be possible without grant dollars.”

Martin told the Council members that they are looking at renovations of the Old Firehouse at the corner of Center and Washington Streets. He reminded them that there was a major project done in the early 1990’s on the structure. Martin said the bricks are very soft since they were formed in 1875. He said there are some places where there are stronger bricks, but those they were part of the renovations in the earlier project.

Martin referenced water damage that has caused some plaster deterioration inside the building as well. The extent of damage, if any, of the roof of the building has not been established. Martin noted that the roof is 18 years-old and deserves an inspection.

Currently the building is leased out to Heart and Hands, the Blueberry Festival Committee and the Marshall County Tourism bureau.

Martin said they have not looked at actual costs for the proposed project as yet, but that there would be a public hearing prior to the final application.

Laurent seemed encouraged by the extent to which Plymouth has worked various projects to improve the city in the past. Among other things, the City had two downtown studies preformed in 2003 and 2004. PIDCO (Plymouth Industrial Development Corporation) has also been very active in pursuing ideas for needed improvements. Speaking in support of the grant application process for PIDCO was local resident Jack Davis.

Laurent suggested that there usually is a $150,000 limit for renovations to one building. She and Martin suggested that the committee may be looking at other projects in addition to the Fire Station.

The Council voted unanimously to authorize Mayor Mark Senter to proceed with the application process.

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