Continental resident Ben Sullivan peruses a village map that has potential projects highlighted. The Village intends to apply for a highly competitive Neighborhood Revitalization Grant through the Ohio Development Services Agency to fund the projects. (Putnam Sentinel/Becky Leader)
Continental resident Ben Sullivan peruses a village map that has potential projects highlighted. The Village intends to apply for a highly competitive Neighborhood Revitalization Grant through the Ohio Development Services Agency to fund the projects. (Putnam Sentinel/Becky Leader)

CONTINENTAL— The Village of Continental is looking for proactive residents to provide input on community projects for a highly competitive Neighborhood Revitalization Grant (NRG) through the State of Ohio’s Development Services Agency (ODSA), which could provide as much as $500,000 to the Village. The village held the first of five mandatory community meetings last Tuesday, February 7, at the Continental American Legion Hall. Mayor Matt Miller and Paul Tecpanecatl, from Poggemeyer Design Group in Bowling Green, moderated the meeting. Poggemeyer employees will coordinate the application process for the Village.

Miller met with representatives of the ODSA last October. Originally, he researched a Downtown Revitalization Grant. However, Miller and the agency determined the Neighborhood Revitalization Grant would be the best fit for the Village. “Since they are the ones making the decisions to (distribute) the money, I am taking their advice,” Miller said.

The NRG, which is a Community Development Block Grant, could provide up to $500,000 for projects such as street and curb improvements, sidewalk improvements, and park and recreation improvements. It can also be used for demolition activities, which are capped at 25 percent of the total request. All projects must be completed within a two-year time period. The Village must submit a minimum of three projects. “We can easily find three, and one or two beyond that,” Miller said. Tentatively, the village has several projects in mind, including clearing dilapidated properties, improving streets, sidewalks, and the water and sewer infrastructure, and making improvements to Sparling Park. A map of the proposed projects is available for public viewing at the Village Offices.

“This in no way is changing how we are attacking projects in the Village,” Miller reminded the audience. “This is meant to bolster what we are already doing.”

The village must also have match money, or leverage, for the grant. “The nice thing about the grant is that monies invested by the village through other grants can be counted toward the match,” Miller said.

He provided examples of the Ohio Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) Main Street Project in the village, which is $225,000, and the resurfacing of Rice Street, which will marry with a project the school is doing. “We are in a really unique position, as ODOT is resurfacing Main Street,” Miller said. “That is the biggest reason we can go down that path.” Leverage can also include loans and donations.

Only one village per county is permitted to apply for the NRG. Continental is a key candidate for the grant due to its LMI (low- and moderate-income) population; it is the only village in the county that qualifies for the grant. The village’s effort has garnered much support from other Putnam County mayors and the county commissioners. Tecpanecatl said the county would submit the grant application on the Village’s behalf by June 16, 2017. This highly competitive annual grant is comprised of deferral funds that have been in existence since 1974. Last year, there were 21 applicants; nine grants were awarded. Tecpanecatl informed the audience that a key to getting the grant award is program design, as the projects must make a significant impact in the community.

It is vital that community members participate in determining which projects are important. “The State wants to make sure everyone is aware of the program, the activities that will be funded, and why those were chosen,” Tecpanecatl said. To that effect, every resident will be mailed a four-page survey in the next few days to assemble opinions as to what projects need to be undertaken. Envelopes will be clearly marked that surveys are enclosed. Surveys can be returned to the village in a number of ways: stamps will be included to mail the surveys; residents can drop off the surveys in the village drop box; or they may bring them to the Village Office and give them to Village Administrator Kathy Prowant. The village will prioritize the projects, according to the results of the survey.

Before the middle of May, the village plans to hold four more community meetings to gather public input. The next meeting has been scheduled for March 7, 6:30 p.m., at the Legion Hall. All meeting dates and times will be posted on the village’s Facebook page.

Tecpanecatl said the ODSA would review the applications. The Village should be notified around the end of August if it will receive the grant. The funding period begins September 1, and extends two years out. “This is pretty exciting —­ this is half a million dollars,” Tecpanecatl said. “That is why the State puts extra criteria on the application.”

One resident questioned what else the community could do to bolster the village’s chances of getting the grant award. “The State wants to know people care and want things to change,” Tecpanecatl said. “Come to the meetings so there is genuine input. Talk it up. Make donations.” He also encouraged people to complete the surveys.

Miller was pleased that over 30 people attended the initial meeting. “The word was out,” he said. “Community involvement is essential. It is essential to have proactive people here from the community; those who live, work, and invest in the community. We want to put together the best application we can. Get the word out. Drive around town, take a look- it might help you with the survey. There are a lot of people who care; that’s what it boils down to. There’s a lot of pride. We have an uptick in building projects and young families. I want to make it better for my kids. Bring a friend to the next meeting.”