Talks continue on eastside renaissance

The City of Warren Planning Commission revisited the Eastside Gateway Renaissance Facade Improvement Project on Wednesday, and eventually agreed to continue the discussion at another work session in June.

Ideas and questions were tossed around, including funding levels, verification details and interest levels among eastside businesses.

Teena Leary, executive secretary for the city, said that staff discussions suggested the amount available to businesses be increased from $5,000. Mary Ann Nau, city administrator and building codes official, said, “Part of the rationale is the cost of sidewalks.”

Called Loan-to-Grant funding, the original proposal included a stipulation that if a participant made 30 monthly payments in a timely manner, the remaining 30 would be converted to a grant with no further amounts due.

A new suggestion from city staff would change that to a 36/24 schedule. The interest rate would be zero percent.

Nelson read from the existing proposal, saying, “The property/business owner is required to commit an amount to the Loan-to-Grant funding to the project, and such amount is to be expended and evidenced by paid itemized receipts prior to Loan-to-Grant funding being disbursed.”

Member William Tarpenning asked, “What if they don’t make their payments on time?”

Member Raymond Pring Jr. suggested there could be a default interest rate built in.

Chairman Don Nelson warned, “If we don’t make incentives high enough, we’re not going to get buy-ins. At the end of the day, we want a program that’s attractive to people.”

Member Pat Scutella said if there were “A to Z hoops” people had to jump through, no one would participate.

Member Bob Dilks Jr.,asked, “Why can’t we do this as a grant program?”

Nelson answered, “There are enough unrestricted funds in the Redevelopment Authority’s balance to do so. We’re not going to finish this today. We need to flesh this out in a future meeting.”

They agreed to hold another work session at 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 11.