Wendell commissioners have launched a great program for helping small businesses. Now they simply need to fund it adequately.
The Facade Grant program is designed to encourage property owners to invest money in their property to make it look nicer. Some of the work is cosmetic. Some of it is functional. All of it results in a nicer-looking storefront.
But Wendell commissioners agreed to provide grants of up to $1,000 and they funded the program with only $1,000. At best, the town could fund one or two grants, but no more.
On Monday night, commissioners found themselves debating among a handful of deserving projects, but there wasn’t enough money to fund them all.
And, after commissioners funded the program, they agreed to institute quarterly application periods, meaning property owners now have three application opportunities to apply for a program that now has no funding after Monday night’s approval process.
Commissioner Sam Laughery said he would like to see whether the town can find some additional funding to continue the program further into the year.
That’s the right idea, even in Wendell, where commissioners are paranoid about raising taxes and are constantly bemoaning the fact that there is no money for projects they like.
But we would argue that the town can, indeed find the money for a popular program that benefits the town. Commissioners can review lapsed salaries – money set aside to pay employees who have since left their job. Commissioners can also look at the line items in their economic development budget to find a few thousand more dollars.
We estimate that a solid Facade Grant program could run the town between $5,000 and $8,000 annually. That’s not a lot of money even for a small town like Wendell.
Commissioners can find the money to make this program a success. Just a little bit of looking is all it takes.