GLOVERSVILLE - City officials said Tuesday it may be better for the city to apply for the Brownfield Opportunity Area grant program on its own rather than together with the city of Johnstown.
Fulton County Planning Director James Mraz previously told the council about the state's Brownfield Opportunity Area grant program. Funding can be tapped to develop plans to improve downtown areas such as in Gloversville and Johnstown.
Mraz said several forums by government and business groups the past couple years determined a plan has to be in place before downtowns can be improved.
Mraz said the state's Brownfield Opportunity Area grant program provides up to 90 percent funding to pay for a professional consultant to put together a downtown revitalization plan. The other 10 percent of the local share can be cash or in-kind services provided by his department, he said.
The Brownfield Opportunity Area Program provides money to help develop areas that may be difficult to work with because of environmental hazards, Mraz said.
He asked Johnstown and Gloversville if they were interested in having the county be the applicant for a grant to hire a consultant.
Mraz said because each city doesn't have a full planning department the way the county does, this would give both cities the opportunity to develop a plan and seek state funding to pay for it.
However, city Department of Public Works Director Kevin Jones said Tuesday since this program can be used on all properties with environmental hazards, not just ones on Main Street, if the city applied on its own, it could use some of the 500-acre limitation on other troubled areas in the city such as the old Pan Am tannery site.
He said there currently is no funding available in the brownfield program, but he has been hearing that in the coming months, the governor could put money back into the program.
Jones said he has been talking to consultants and they have been telling him this may be the last year the grant will be funded.
He said the grant typically has three phases, with the first being pre-nomination study and inventory of what is available. The second is the nomination stage, where the plan is actually put together. The third is implementation of the designed plans.
Jones said the city could put down the money, approximately $3,500, for hiring a professional consultant to apply for the grant, and if it provided an additional $8,000, it could apply for the grant starting at phase two when the plan is actually developed.
The additional money would go toward the inventory process and initial planning that would be required to be completed to enter the grant at phase two, Jones said.
"The state is buying this approach more and more, and if we have the right people doing the right work, we could actually apply at phase two," Jones said.
Jones told the council he could have potential consultants speak to the council about what they can provide the city in this process.
Mraz previously said the Glove Cities could apply for the grant separately, but they would be competing against each other for funding.
The city Planning Board already recommended the Common Council allow the county Planning Department to help in developing the downtown revitalization plan for the Glove Cities.
The council took no action on Tuesday.
Mayor Dayton King said the city could make a decision within the next couple of weeks.
"It is only a 500-acre grant, so doing both cities wouldn't work," King said.
Johnstown Mayor Sarah Slingerland said her council is still considering what it is going to do and isn't leaning one way or another at this time regarding the grant program.
"The Planning Board has been actively engaged in looking at the revitalization of the downtown area based on the language in [Johnstown's] comprehensive plan," Slingerland said.
Slingerland said she is not certain if Johnstown will go through the county if Gloversville decides to apply alone, but ultimately, it will be up to the Johnstown council, which hasn't given any indication yet.
Former Gloversville City Court Judge Vincent DeSantis said he believes the downtown area is important to the quality of life of the community and a plan gets people to talk about the future.
Chris Curro, manager of the Mohawk Harvest Cooperative Market, told the council applying for a grant would "unleash the human capital of this community."
"It will transform our memories of a glorious past into concrete steps for a vibrant future," Curro said.
"A downtown is the front porch of a community," Curro said. "That means downtowns need the investment to make them feel as comfortable, as welcoming and as appealing as you want your front porch to feel."
Levi Pascher can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.