By Jason Schock
The Nebraska Dept. of Economic Development has earmarked $350,000 in grant monies to be utilized for Falls City’s “Phase II” of its Downtown Revitalization Project and City leaders want your help in spending that cash.
Let’s rephrase that: They want to hear your opinion.
Lisa Beethe, Community Development Specialist with Southeast Nebraska Development District, last Tuesday night at City Hall presented information concerning the grant and distributed a survey to the 25 people in attendance. It is important to get input from the public now, she said, as a public vote will be taken in less than three weeks.
The public is invited to the meeting, which has been scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015 at the Grand Weaver Hotel. Those in attendance will be voting to prioritize how the money is spent. Those unable to attend the Dec. 16 meeting can pick up a survey at the Falls City Chamber of Commerce Office in the 1700 block of Stone Street.
“It’s very important that we get feedback on what the people want to do,” City Clerk/Treasurer Gary Jorn said. “The more input we get, the better the plan will be.”
Whatever the choice — curbs and sidewalks, architectural barriers, facade improvements, or pretty street lights — a 25-percent match is required (which could potentially make it a $440,000 project). The match can come from a variety of sources, such as The City and/or business owners.
Beethe must submit Falls City’s plan to the DED by March 1.
“Phase I” of the plan, which focused on the 1700 block of Stone, the intersections of 17th and 18th and Stone Streets, as well as the south side of 17th Street between Stone and Harlan, included traffic flow changes on Stone and Chase, new streetscapes (including) “bump outs,” and replacing traffic lights with stop signs, among other elements, was completed two years ago.
The changes, as is generally the case, were welcomed by some, accosted by others. Long-time downtown business owner Mary Whitehouse, for instance, at the Dec. 16 meeting implied the next grant money be used to either undo or fix certain aspects of “Phase I,” in particular, reducing the size of aforementioned “bump outs.”
Beethe said that not only can the grant funds not be used to “fix” any aspects of “Phase I,” but the DED has said the money should address altogether different needs, hence would be totally unrelated to “Phase 1.” That came as a surprise to some, like A&G Restaurant Owner Costas Haralabidis, who said he believed the word “Phase,” in this case, related to a portion of Stone Street, e.g. “Phase 1” involved the 1700 block of Stone Street; “Phase 2” will move south, to the 1600 block.
But that’s not the case, according to Beethe.
“All we can do is propose that, but the feedback we’re getting is that they don’t want to do the same thing again,” she said.
Business owners from the 1800 block of Stone Street — namely Ted Godemann, of the SE Nebraska Insurance Agency, and Eric Froeschl of The Would Eye Bar & Grill — were on hand to lobby for a new sidewalk in front of their places of businesses. Beethe said the Jan. 13 meeting is the one to urge one plan or another.
“Go door to door in the business district and talk with everybody and bring these ideas back to the next meeting,” she said. “That’s when your input is most important.”
Your opinion matters, but certainly so does cost.
“Everyone’s top project may not be feasible,” Beethe said. “Not all ideas can be funded for $350,000. We have to take that into consideration, too.”
“Phase I” of the Downtown Revitalization Plan cost in the neighborhood of $650,000.