First, I would like to thank Jonna Spelbring Priester and the Henry County Local for the coverage given to the New Castle City Commission meeting last Monday evening, specifically the coverage of the discussion pertaining to the Renaissance On Main project. By now, I'm sure you have read the article in last weeks Local regarding the discussion of the New Castle Main Street project. I believe there is some misinformation that exists among some of the residents of New Castle concerning the program, exactly what it is, what it's not, its purpose and what it means to the city of New Castle.
Renaissance On Main is a state-administered program that has been in existence for the past 27 years whose purpose is to assist cities in their quest for the revitalization of downtown areas and their economic development. It is not, nor has it ever been an attempt, as many may think, to dictate to residents what they can and cannot do with their property. It's all about the downtown area. And it's not all about the Locker project, although it has been through the first round of funding. It's about activities that will eventually affect the entire downtown as a whole and efforts to insure the economic survival of the city of New Castle. That is the goal of the Renaissance On Main project.
I realize that the New Castle City Commission is divided on this issue and I listened with great interest to the remarks of the members of the commission as well as city residents who voiced their opinion. Here are the facts as I see them:
The City of New Castle received a $250,000 grant that has been dedicated to the Locker project.
Through the efforts of those involved, the building is structurally sound, safe and is virtually ready for occupancy pending approval from the State Fire Marshall and the installation of illuminated exit signs.
A little over $106,000 has been expended by the city of New Castle during the past five years to pay the salary of the Main Street Managers and the related expenses.
We currently have a Main Street Manager, namely Jeff Thoke, who can help us to move in new and exciting directions in 2008.
The biggest point of contention among some members of the city commission is that the $15,000 per year spent on the salary for the Main Street Manager should go directly into the Locker project. It is my feeling that the $15,000 would not be adequate to see the project through to its conclusion, nor would spending that amount of money per year for the next ten years be adequate. This I know...if I can spend $1.06 and get $2.50 back, I would do that all day long. That is basically what has happened. We have received a good return on the initial investment so far and we are in a unique position to secure funding through grants from Renaissance on Main during the next biennium to complete the project and undergo other much needed projects in New Castle.
If the New Castle City Commission renders a no vote, the result will be New Castle leaving the program. If we ever wanted to reapply for admission into the Main Street program, we would move to the back of the bus and it would take a long time to get back to where we are right now. Presently, New Castle is in a great position to move forward.
The New Castle City Commission will be having a special called meeting on Jan. 24, at 7 p.m. for the expressed purpose of voting whether to approve the annual letter of commitment for the Main Street program. I would like to invite residents of New Castle who are both for and against the Main Street program to come to the meeting and voice their opinion. I firmly believe that you cannot be a mayor or city commissioner and claim to be for fiscal responsibility and not have downtown revitalization near the top of your priority list. And, in my opinion, the Main Street program is absolutely essential for downtown revitalization from the standpoint of economic development. I look forward to seeing you on Jan. 24.
New Castle, Kentucky