Monday, July 15, 2013

Opinion: Ansonia EDC chairman welcomes funds for W. Main Street

By Vinnie Scarlata
Guest columnist

Congratulations to us, Ansonia, on receiving a $483,000 grant from the state that will enable us to refurbish West Main Street and our commuter parking area adjacent to the railroad station.

Some explanation of the grant process may be helpful to those who are critics of this grant.

Comments stating “We should be using the money for this or that,” or “Why are we doing this when we should be looking at that x, y, z,” fail to grasp how the state grant application process works. A grant application is designated for a very specific purpose. 
When the state approves and awards a grant, such as our newest West Main Street Project, the money cannot be used for any other purpose but those spelled out in our proposal or they can withdraw their funding. We are bound by the specifics of our application, nothing more and nothing less.

Understand, also, different state agencies target different municipal needs. The state looks to support local initiatives that fit a formula for economic growth. They offer funds in hopes of spurring new local economic activity, targeted to specific categories.

This grant was hosted jointly by Connecticut Main Street Center and the Office of Policy and Management. 
Their specific targets here are the downtown areas of Connecticut. This money is to help in rejuvenating Connecticut Main Streets, not school systems, not police departments or road work, but downtown centers.

Downtown revival 
Our West Main Street Project was originally Phase 1 of the City’s River Walk Project, designed for Ansonia by DeCarlo and Doll Inc. (D&D) of Meriden. 
This Phase 1 had been designed, planned and approved together with the entirety of the River Walk Project. For budget purposes, however, this West Main Street phase was pulled from the group to be revisited at a later date. It was, nonetheless, an approved and viable project. 
When this grant offering was posted by the state, D&D recognized West Main Street’s potential for this grant and it became the perfect project for submission. There was a very narrow window of time to submit and not nearly enough time to design an alternate project. D&D was ultimately hired by Ansonia’s Economic Development Commission (EDC) to write this grant on our behalf.

Our EDC’s goal these last two years has been the revival of our downtown and this project dovetails with that vision, much the same as the Farmers' Market, Bike Festival, and Storefront Improvement Program as well as the Cultural Commission's Concert Series and Harvest Festival, to name a few with much more to come.
They are all designed to help spur economic activity for us downtown. These kinds of grants are investments in us by the state.
They are catalysts to be used by us for growth, not just money to be spent frivolously.
The state has recognized our push towards revitalization and is acknowledging that with its support. 
Rest assured, Ansonia’s EDC will be good stewards of these funds and this project.

Scarlata, chairman of the Ansonia Economic Development Commission, shared this column with the media today.

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