A grant consultant believes the City of Jackson has a good chance of being awarded a large Neighborhood Revitalization grant, but the decision may hinge on the willingness of community groups and residents to get involved in volunteer improvement projects.
That was one of the important bottom lines emerging as the result of the third public meeting, which was conducted Tuesday evening, March 14, at the Jackson Senior Citizens Center regarding the city's plans to apply for a $500,000 Neighborhood Revitalization grant from the state.
If awarded, the grant would provide money for various improvement projects in an area on the northwest side of Jackson which is primarily bordered by west of Chillicothe Street, north of West Main Street, east of Diamond Street and south of Mitchell Street. The proposed project has been dubbed as the North End Neighborhood Revitalization Program.
The public meetings have been led by Whitaker Wright, who is a grant consultant with CDC of Ohio, which has the Jackson County commissioners as a client. The Neighborhood Revitalization Grants are part of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which runs through the county. The City of Wellston has already been awarded two Neighborhood Revitalization grants which are boosting certain sections of the city.
There will be a fourth and final public meeting in April prior to the application being prepared. The grant application has to be submitted in June and if the grant is awarded, the improvement projects would be carried out in the two-year period from September 2017 through August 2019. The concept is to a number of smaller and varied projects rather than one large one.
The purposes of the public meetings are to provide information about the grant program, gain input from the community on possible projects and attempt to get local organizations and residents involved by conducting their own improvement projects in conjunction with the grant-funded work. The community involvement is considered to be a key factor.
The turnout was very light at Tuesday's meeting was very light with only three citizens present, in addition to the small group of elected officials and grant consultants. However, many residents not attending the meetings have participated by submitting information on survey forms. Second Ward Councilman Ron Queen and neighborhood resident Ron Colley reported they had both spent time circulating surveys and asking residents to attend the meetings.
When Jackson City Councilman George Kitchen expressed disappointment with the lack of attendance of neighborhood residents at the public meetings and wondered if another section of the city should be targeted for the grant, both Queen and Colley objected.
"This end of town has been left out long enough," Queen responded.
Thus far, the feedback from residents and city officials have suggested that the grant pay for such projects as demolition of dilapidated houses, building a playground, making street, alley and curbing improvements, creek cleaning and flood control, replacing five inoperable fire hydrants, and making sewer-line improvements.
The Neighborhood Revitalization grants are very competitive and as the meeting was closing, Wright was asked if he thought Jackson had a good chance of getting a grant.
"I think you do," Wright replied. "First, there is a lot of need here, and a lot of people did turn in papers. The key may be the community projects."
Councilman Queen responded, "It will show that the community cares."
He urged those in attendance to assist Mayor Randy Heath and city grant program representative Jan McKibben with contacting community groups to get involved in the volunteer projects and hopefully come back to the April meeting with some commitments for participation.
At this point, there has not been much of that and perhaps the only person present who was representing a group was Barbie McCathren, who recently formed a community beautification organization called Cultivating Our Future.
Wright distributed a handout which provided a list of volunteer project ideas. Included on that list were: Bus shelter, community garden, ballfield improvements, gazebo or shelter house, signs to parks, landscaping gateways to neighborhoods, projects which reflect neighborhood history, an information and map kiosk, and establishing a community non-profit organization.
In a bid to attract more attendance, a fourth and final public meeting was initially set for Saturday, April 22, at 10:30 a.m., also at the Jackson Senior Citizens Center. However, the meeting was later switched to Thursday, April 20, at 7 p.m. also at the Senior Citizens Center. The change was necessary because the center had been rented out for another event on April 22.
Posted: Friday, March 17, 2017
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