Board eyes path to sidewalk funds

JOHNSTOWN – The city Planning Board on Tuesday authorized City Engineer Chandra Cotter to pursue a possible state grant to assist downtown businesses with sidewalk enhancement.

The board endorsed the “concept” of sidewalk improvement grant funds through the state Office of Community Renewal. Cotter is expected to meet with Mayor Sarah Slingerland and City Treasurer Michael Gifford this week because the city would be the grant applicant.

The Planning Board has been studying ways to improve the central business district.

Board member Fred Franko researched a possible grant and Cotter outlined it for the board Tuesday at City Hall. She said cities can seek grant funding through an $8 million pool available through the state Office of Community Renewal.

Cotter said there are three areas the city can apply for – housing rehabilitation, public infrastructure and economic development. No matching funds are needed, she said.

“My thinking was the Main Street infrastructure with the sidewalks and streetscapes,” she said.

Streetscape enhancement would involve activities such as planting trees and installing street furniture and trash cans.

Cotter said the city probably can’t pursue funding for renovations of buildings because that must be initiated by the property owners.

Franko said it is probably good to at least initially apply for funding.

“If we try for something [and fail], we’ll be better armed the next time around,’ he said.

City Attorney Susan Palmer Johnson said the board might want to review its efforts with Gifford to determine if a grant consultant is needed.

“This seems like something that isn’t too far of a stretch if everybody’s in agreement on it,” Franko said.

Cotter said there are private business owners in the downtown district who sometimes ask the city to help with sidewalk repairs. But the city has to immediately say no because city money can’t be used for their businesses.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected].

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