Don't tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I'll show you what you are. How true!
The debate over the value of the Main Street Program in New Castle is simply a matter of priorities of how a tax payer's money is spent. The choice before the New Castle City Commission is either to keep funding the Main Street Program hoping to gain new grant money from Frankfort sometime in the future or change directions, invest what New Castle is spending on Main Street to repair and renovate the Locker now for the community to use.
In light of this debate, two opinions written to the editor in last week's Local were in support of New Castle continuing to fund the Main Street Program. One writer claimed the Main Street Program brought benefits to New Castle while the second writer claimed the public was "misinformed." Let's look at these two statements more closely.
New Castle has a Main Street Program as well as a Preservation Program. These two are separate and distinct, standing on their own. Preservation was in place before the Main Street Program came along. The facades of the buildings that were renovated and painted had nothing to do with the Main Street Program grant money. The costs of repairing and painting came out of the building owner's pocket. Main Street contributed no money towards the renovation and painting of these buildings.
The entire city of New Castle is a Main Street City. Within the city limits is a preservation district whose boundaries have changed many times. If you live within the preservation district, you can qualify for a 50 percent reduction in paint. If this paint deal came through the Main Street Program, I would qualify for 50 percent off paint too because I live in New Castle. However, since I live in New Castle but not in the designated preservation district, I do not qualify for the discounted paint. Bottom line is: improvement of the facades of the buildings in New Castle had no connection to the New Castle Main Street Program.
The Main Street Program at this time concerns itself only with the Locker. Main Street is the management component of the Renaissance Program, and Renaissance is the funding for Main Street. By buying the Locker with Main Street grant money, New Castle must use the Locker for 20 years for public purposes. If the commission decides to discontinue the Main Street Program, New Castle would not have to pay back any of the spent grant money, the $250,000. Additionally, if New Castle chooses to opt out of the Main Street Program at this time, but in the future decides to participate in the Main Street Program, New Castle would be put at the bottom of the list to obtain grant monies. Once a city drops its Main Street Program, it is no longer eligible for state grant money targeted toward Main Street/Renaissance purposes.
Another issue that must be addressed is the safety of the Locker building itself. The Locker as well as the Main Street Managers' salary is where all the Main Street grant monies have been spent. It is true tht the building is at this time structurally sound, but safe and virtually ready for occupancy is not true. The Locker doors swing inward when you enter/exit the building - a big safety issue. The exit signs above the doors are hand printed on cardboard with the word EXIT. Along the surface of the floor, concrete footers extend upward and pose a great risk for someone to fall. The stairwell leading to an unsafe second floor is completely unusable. Second floor cannot be used at all. The City Commission deals with the Kentucky League of Cities for advice on insurance issues concerncing city buildings. KLC's advice will have a major influence when the Locker can be accessed by the public. It is the New Castle City Commission that will decide when the Locker is a safe building.
An opinion stating that New Castle is in a unique position to secure funding through grants in the Main Street Program in Frankfort appeared in the Local last week. I question that assertion in light of New Castle not receiving grant monies from Main Street for two years now. We did not receive funding for this year, 2008. Also, Cara H. Morris, Program Director of Renaissance on Main informed the City Commission that she could not predict when the next funding cycle will begin, but check the Governor's Office for Local Development (GOLD) Web site for updates. This contradicts the notion that New Castle is in a unique position to secure funding.
In the last monthly City Commission meeting, many had the opinion that if New Castle did not continue in the Main Street Program, this would sign New Castle's death warrant. Nothing could be further from the truth. First off, New Castle is the county seat of Henry County. We will never be a ghost town. Eminence no longer has a Main Street Program, yet the city is opening a Family Dollar discount store, as well as a sit down restaurant being built in front of Norm's Foodworld. No Main Street Program helped out in these two projects. The city of Danville has a robust Main Street Program, but currently five buildings in downtown Danville are either for lease or sale, including a 27,000 square foot Historic Hub Department Store. So much for build it and they will come.
These are but a few facts that need to be brought to light for the residents of New Castle to understand what the New Castle City Commission has to deal with. Please come to the special meeting Thursday, Jan. 24, at 7 p.m., at the firehouse, where the City Commission will be voting either to keep funding the Main Street Program, or discontinue it at this time. I am asking all residents of New Castle, who pay taxes here, to voice your opinion on this important issue.
New Castle City Commissioner