Story by Amanda Ault, Associate Editor
Following the second and final required public hearing on the issue, the town of Montross submitted its application requesting $530,000 for a community development block grant. The town plans to use the money for several projects aimed at revitalizing the downtown area.
The town had applied for the same grant last year, but was unsuccessful in getting funds. This time around, the town is asking for less money and has a more focused plan on how to spend the money. Town officials and Jerry Davis, executive director of the Northern Neck Planning District, reviewed the winning applications from last year, looking for ways to make their grant application more appealing.
The town has assurances from private investors to match some of the funds if the town receives the grant, which Davis said will make the application more appealing to the application committee.
One significant change to the application is a requirement for any new or existing businesses that uses monies from the revolving loan fund will have to agree to hire people in the low to moderate income range.
In addition to a revolving loan fund aimed to help new businesses get a foothold in the town or to help existing businesses expand, the town plans to use the grant money for physical improvements. Particular attention will be given to improving three cross walks in the downtown area – by Angelo’s, the Westmoreland County Museum, and the post office.
The plan, Davis said, is to apply a painted surface that looks like brick pavers to the cross walks by the museum and post office, but the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has a different recommendation for the cross walk by Angelo’s.
“VDOT recommends a lighted system pedestrians can activate,” Davis said. “Some flashing lights will alert drivers that pedestrians are crossing.”
For these projects, the town can also apply for a grant through VDOT’s enhancement program. It is a matching grant, so the town would be able to use money from the CDBG to match the funds available from VDOT. Davis said the deadline to apply for VDOT’s grant is in the fall, so the town would know if it had received the CDBG before submitting the application to VDOT.
Another new aspect of this year’s application is the formation of a Main Street affiliation group that will spearhead other efforts to bring people into the downtown Montross area.
“This is a very positive thing to happen,” Davis said. “This demonstrates to the state that [the town] is serious about revitalization.”
Davis said that if the town does receive grant monies, the state should release the funds after July 1 and the town should be prepared to get to work right away on its projects. The state usually allots 12 to 18 months for localities to complete the projects.
The revolving loan fund would not be subjected to that time deadline, Davis said. Initial loans from the fund would have to be made in that time period, but as the money is paid back, the money can continued to be loaned out indefinitely. Loans from the fund would have to be restricted to the downtown Montross project area during that first 12 to 18 month time period, but after that, the loan managers would be able to offer loans to businesses outside of the project area.