Editorial: Grants offer chance to improve Wendell

July 25, 2013 

Wendell leaders have set aside $1,000 for the entire year to spend in the form of grants to local property owners who want to improve the outside of their business properties. Already they have more applications than they have money to grant.

But commissioners said last week, they want to review all the eligible grant requests and decide on a case-by-case basis whether to add more money to the pot.

It’s too early to tell if all five applications that met the first deadline of the year (there will be four deadlines this year) will be eligible. It’s too early to tell if the projects will be significant enough to merit a grant.

But it’s encouraging – and commissioners should be excited – that property owners are interested in the opportunity the town is providing.

The idea behind the facade grant program was to stir private investment in the properties. Every grant applicant must spend a dollar for each dollar they seek from the town. At least five property owners have committed to that arrangement. In some cases, the work has already been done.

Commissioners have an opportunity here to reward that private investment. The town’s money doesn’t grow on trees, of course, so there needs to be some reasonable limit on how much money the town sinks into the program on an annual basis.

But it’s clear there is more interest than the $1,000 currently set aside.

Wendell commissioners have typically been hesitant to spend money outside the constraints of a formally approved budget.

But this is a case where, for a nominal amount of money, the town can foster improvements that make the entire town look better.

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