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Facade grant applications due

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By Pat Hibbs

Faade grant applications must be submitted by March 31 to be eligible for this year's awards.

Community Development Agency vice chair Nick Williams reminded members of the CRA of the deadline at the group's meeting on Monday evening. The grants are an effort to restore the historic feel of downtown Williston by returning core buildings to their original appearance.

Grants are available up to $5,000 for a single faade. Grants for lesser amounts may be awarded. The building owner or business proprietor must match the grant money dollar for dollar, and the grant may not exceed 50 percent of the cost of the improvements.

The grants are available for improved signage; replacing or installing awnings and canopies; walls, fencing and landscaping; and work on the exterior of the building, including cleaning masonry, painting, repointing, woodwork, window and door replacement and other repairs necessary to rebuild historic storefronts. Restoring the second story of a building to a useful purpose may also be eligible for grant money.

Last year, Steve McMillen used a grant to update his original McMillen Surveying building at South Main Street and Southwest First Avenue to make the faade complementary to the new business plaza across the street.

Grant applications may be obtained from Terry Summers; call 528-3060.

CRA members also spent time reviewing the results of the workshop held at its last meeting. David Connolly, principal planner for the Withlacoochee Regional Planning Council, presented his summary of the meeting and drafts of the resolution and ordinance that the WRPC recommends sending to the City Council.

The changes to the overall CRA plan apply to the project implementation schedule and reflect a realistic view of the CRA's priorities at this time.

The original plan was adopted late in 2002, and has not been significantly modified since then. Some of the proposed changes include moving to the forefront the new City Hall and the plans for Linear Park. After a nearly year-long study of the park, a landscape architecture class from the University of Florida produced a plan for the entire area, from the first block of South Main Street to Northwest Sixth Avenue.

Specific activities for the block in front of City Hall have begun with the submission of engineering drawings for the space that reflect the recommendations of the CRA and some modifications suggested by the City Council, which has the authority to approve changes to the cityscape.

Stormwater retention at the Johnny T. Henry Celebration Park has also been given greater priority, as have sidewalks in the downtown area.

At their next meeting, the CRA members will conduct a "walkabout" to determine which areas should have priority for new or reconstructed sidewalks.

Connolly reminded members of the CRA that the annual report is due to the state before the end of March. Mark Schiefer, the city's finance director, has in the past contributed the required financial data, and Connolly said that WRPC would work on the narrative section.

New Christmas decorations, to be sponsored by the CRA, were discussed briefly. Recording secretary Terry Summers told the gathering the Public Works Director James Arrington had scoured catalogues and made some recommendations, which will be considered by the membership at a later date.

The CRA's next meeting is scheduled for March 10 at 5:15 p.m. in the council chambers. The meeting is open to the public.