WENDELL — Total Connection newspaper publisher Regina Harmon won a five-way contest Monday night for grant money offered by the town to fix up aging downtown properties.
But town commissioners, who awarded the $1,000 grant to Harmon, suffered some heartburn from the fact that they could not OK other applications.
Commissioners reviewed Facade Grant applications from four other applicants: Joey Pippin, who owns the property at 18 N. Main St.; Teresa Manning at 104 W. Third St.; Tony Jeffreys, at 2971 Wendell Blvd.; and Sheree Hedrick, owner of 128 N. Main St.
Two of those applications, submitted by Hedrick and Manning, were deemed ineligible for the grant money because the improvements were done before the grant application was submitted.
Harmon’s application was recommended over the others by the town’s Appearance Commission. Harmon proposes to repair bricks and windows on the front of her building at 7 W. Third St., and paint the building’s facade.
Board members had agreed tentatively at a meeting two weeks ago to OK Harmon’s application, but on Monday night, there were others who said the town should put its money elsewhere.
“There are two or three other applications here that are better than that one,” Mayor Tim Hinnant said.
He suggested that the town consider Manning’s project, even though it had been ruled ineligible. He also endorsed Jeffreys’ request, citing his support for the community.
“Every time you ride by the IGA, you see people out in that parking lot having fundraisers and he’s always giving water to groups that are doing other events,” Hinnant said.
Commissioner Christie Adams also suggested that the town could divide the money and award part of two grant applications.
Commissioner Ginna Gray argued that spurning the Appearance Commission’s recommendation would set a bad precedent.
“This is basically the main thing we’ve tasked them to do. To not accept their recommendation, to me, seems like it would eliminate their reason for existing,” Gray said.
Adams countered by pointing out that commissioners had specifically declined to give that advisory body the right to award the money.
“For whatever reason, we chose to keep that responsibility here,” Adams said.
Commissioner Sam Laughery expressed some frustration at not being able to approve more of the grant applications.
“We have a very creative finance director and town manager. I’d like to see us direct staff to look at the budget to see if there’s not a way we could find some more money to possibly award more of these grants,” Laughery said.
Town planner Patrick Reidy said the applicants who did not win grants Monday night can apply again during the next funding cycle, which will be considered in December. He said another application has already been submitted for that cycle.
Commissioners will have to come up with additional money in order to award more grants.