By Jim Krencik
Medina Journal-Register — ALBION — The $427,000 in grant funding awarded to last year for building improvements has largely been allocated for projects in Albion’s downtown business district, but finding consensus on plans for a $50,000 in streetscape grant has proven to been a far slower process.
The streetscape funds were included in the grant awarded last December to the Town of Albion and administered by the Downtown Albion Neighborhood Advisory Committee. They are in essence, free money, requiring no matching local funds, but like the building improvement grants, they must be for work completed by December 2014.
For now, the focus of the DANAC subcommittee in charge of marshaling the streetscape funds is working with the village government and department of public works to determine the feasibility and scale of a number of projects that would use the grant funding to create a greener, cleaner and more attractive downtown.
According to DANAC’s Katelin Olson, the current plan for the funding is to split it between multiple projects. Tentatively big investments will be made for an arboreal effort — as much as $20,000 for trees and planters — and monumental works — a large contribution towards the costs of building the proposed Orleans County Quarrymen’s Memorial Park. Money is also earmarked for smaller projects to improve signage, seating and public art in the downtown.
”(Having $50,000) enables us to have some flexibility in the projects we do,” said Olson, who noted that the village’s continued help can stretch the funding farther. “The village has been supportive, and we can do more with them — we hope to purchase more if the village can contribute the manpower.”
Subcommittee Chairman Tom Rivers outlined several potential projects with village officials last week, in a process that more of a pitch meeting than a specific proposal. Rivers told the village board and DPW Superintendent Dale Brooks that he wanted to hear them out on several ideas.
In turn, there was support for ideas like new downtown benches that would be painted with historical themes. But without specifics it was hard for the village to commit solidly to any one idea.
”My sense is that we need to quantify and analyze (the projects) more,” Mayor Dean Theodorakos said.
It’s a chicken or the egg dilemma, with both sides coming closer to consensus but unable to jump with both feet into any one idea with either a fuller logistical picture or a firm show of support. Olson said the hope is that the village will be presented with a plan they can feel safe in endorsing by the end of January, with further state and town approval coming before the spring.
”We’d want to see everything implemented as soon as possible (to be in place for summer tourism),” Olson said.
January will also mark a change in how the downtown building funding is allocated. DANAC will begin a rolling grant application process to award the remaining matching funds for building projects.
Through three grant cycles – the most recent of which awarded $25,000 for asbestos abatement and new storm windows at the former Swan Library — only about $50,000 remains to be awarded. That pool will grow, Olson said, if awarded projects come in under budget.