The Fulton County Commissioners were told Tuesday of $1 million in Community Development Block Grant money up for grabs for business revitalization, but were warned the statewide competition is fierce.
And because of those competitive circumstances, Maumee Valley Planning Organization representative Austin Serna asked the commissioners whether they’re willing to vet Fulton County communities interested in the funding and choose only one to apply.
Serna led an informational meeting about the CDBG funding during the commissioners’ regular session. He said the money, available through the block grant’s Downtown Revitalization Program, will be divided among only four communities amid 78 of the 88 Ohio counties with more rural populations. The downtown district in interested communities must be defined as the central business district of the community.
Should a downtown district up for consideration be deemed historic by the U.S. Department of the Interior or the Ohio Historic Preservation Office the community will have to meet guidelines before it can apply for the funds.
Serna said each application will be for $250,000 of the available $1 million, and $3,000 of each allotment will go toward administrative costs. Up to three businesses or building owners in a downtown revitalization district can apply for the funds. A business owner must receive a cost estimate and commitment statement before submitting an application to the MVPO.
A pre-application goes before state officials to determine whether an application will be awarded funds.
Buildings vying for the revitalization funding must be categorized in either “slum” or “blight” condition and must undergo condition surveys, Serna said. “If the building is deemed in fair or good condition it kind of makes a tough case for those funds to be received,” he said.
The funding can be applied to either an area slum or blight – comprised of a district and multiple buildings – or a spot slum or blight – a single building. Eligibility would be determined by the MVPO or a certified engineer.
And a community stands a better chance of selection if the business owners have leverage funds, although that doesn’t necessarily mean a 50% match, Serna said.
He told the commissioners the revitalization program is extremely competitive across the state, with communities within the same county applying for the same money. He said the program has a two-year cycle and already has enough pre-applications for the next five years.
For those reasons, Serna asked the commissioners if they would consider vetting the Fulton County communities interested in the grant and decide on one candidate for the current program cycle. He offered to draft a resolution for the commissioners’ review that confirms their willingness to vet interested county entities.
“There are some communities that may do all this work and then they may feel frustrated because they never receive anything or their community was outbid by someone else,” he said.
Serna said if communities in the county all apply during the same program year “the odds of probably just one being funded are slim enough, let alone all three from the community. We’re trying to avoid the frustration from the multiple communities, but at least do our job to help them receive grant money. It’s just unfortunate, with how competitive the program is.”
Commissioner Jon Rupp said he would prefer Serna’s suggestion rather than watch local communities complete the process for funding, only to end up with nothing.
Serna said he hopes to visit the county’s communities for the purpose of advising them just how competitive the funding program will be. “Hopefully, that would just narrow it out at the beginning, so they don’t get to the stage where they don’t get funded,” he said.
The commissioners agreed to review a resolution but did not take action on the issue.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.