Willard to discuss direction for downtown revitalization

Aaron Krause • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:06 PM

WILLARD - Council members plan to discuss tonight whether to apply again for a downtown revitalization grant.

The city learned last month the state denied its application for $400,000. It would have helped the city to pay for refurbishments to exterior buildings, street signs, streetscape improvements and administrative help to promote downtown.

The project's total cost would have been more than $1 million, with additional money coming from city and business matches.

City Manager Brian Humphress said the state funded six projects, and Willard was seventh. The city qualified for the first two rounds of funding, but didn't make the final cut.

Humphress said he's disappointed.

"It's something that we worked hard on for a year and a half," he said.

Humphress said the city had planned for a downtown revitalization project for about two-and-a-half years. The work in included meeting with merchants, writing applications for funding and conducting infrastructure surveys.

"We thought we had a really good shot at it and we did," he said.

But in the end, Humphress said most of the winning cities came up with $1 million or more in matching funds. Willard planned to do about $350,000 worth of infrastructure work in the downtown area, and planned to use part of that sum to match state funding.

"While we compared very well on all the other criteria, we lost points there," Humphress said, referring to the lower match.

Humphress said the city can apply again for funding. However, he said the city will have to spend some of the $350,000 on road improvements, since streets are in bad shape.

"If we do that, the match money goes down even less," the city manager said.

At a minimum, municipalities must put up $1 for every $1 they receive in funding.

The city last conducted a downtown revitalization project in the 70s, Humphress said.

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