The Kennebec Journal has a story today about plans in Hallowell, Maine to upgrade their riverfront park (see story for proposal graphic):
The city of Hallowell hopes to use a grant to upgrade concert facilities, add downtown parking, replace Water Street streetlights and make environmental and historical improvements in Riverfront Park.
A public hearing on project proposals is scheduled for Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Hallowell City Hall.
The city plans to file an application to gain $200,000 from the Communities for Maine’s Future Program, a matching grant program run through the Maine Office of Community Development. The program is funded by a $25 million state bond issue approved by voters in November 2010.
The city would have to match the grant dollar for dollar. Mayor Charlotte Warren said Hallowell would use $130,000 already in an account with the Community Development Block Grant Program, a federal program administered by the Maine Office of Community Development.
Overall, this is good news for the town as it will increase the sort of amenities that will help draw residents to the town. However, we are not fans of this kind of matching grant program for a number of reasons:
- Too often we see towns just sitting on their hands while they wait for such grants, be at the state or federal level, rather than paying for it themselves. In our opinion, these kinds of projects have a great return-on-investment so why wait around for money to fall from the sky?
- This new grant is specifically being funded by Mainers all over the state (or country from the federal block grant). But why should folks from Eastport have to pony up for improvements in Hallowell . . . especially when Hallowell is economically better off?
- Outside money often comes with strings attached which may involve spending money on projects, while deemed necessary by the grantor, that may not have been a priority for the local residents.
In the end, towns need to “take the bull by the horns” and get these projects done without waiting for “mana from heaven.” Surely there are businesses in Hallowell that could have donated their services to accomplish most, if not all, of the proposed park improvements? What about local volunteers? While bulldozers may be faster, the same work can be accomplished by a dozen volunteers with picks and shovels (and helps build relationships to boot).
Be sure to check out our town picture gallery of downtown Hallowell, Maine.