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Friday, August 17th, 2012

Little town gets big funds

With state assistance, Burkettsville will get $1.2 million renovation

By Shelley Grieshop
BURKETTSVILLE - This tiny town of fewer than 250 people has snagged a $300,000 state grant for a variety of improvements.
"That's not a bad deal," said Mercer County Economic Development Director Jared Ebbing, whose office sought the funds for the village.
Burkettsville is getting a makeover to the tune of nearly $1.2 million, at a cost to the village of just $36,000. The $300,000 Neighborhood Revitalization grant is one of six funding sources for the project. The town also received $85,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds, $700,000 from the Ohio Public Works Commission, $5,000 from two local residents whose buildings are being demolished with grant funds, and a $40,000 county revolving loan.
The project involves reconstruction, drainage and sidewalk installation on Washington Street; park improvements such as a walking trail, parking and resurfacing of a basketball court; rehabilitation of the town's community building; and the demolition of two blighted buildings. The work is expected to begin next year.
Several meetings were held in the village to draw public input on the project.
"We're doing what the people wanted us to do," Ebbing said.
Burkettsville is unique because the village is split between Mercer and Darke counties. Ebbing initially wasn't sure how the state would feel about giving Mercer County money for improvements that span another county. He was happy with the response.
"The state thought it was a great if we wanted to do it," Ebbing said. "And why not? They're in Mercer County. They're part of our community."
Each year Ebbing, on behalf of the county, applies for Community Development Block Grant formula funds and related monies to make improvements in income-eligible communities. Because most grants require a cash match, his office often uses smaller awards to hook bigger ones, he said.
In order to land state and federal grants, it's crucial to have numerous projects planned, good public participation, proof of benefit to residents and additional sources of funding, Ebbing said.
Focusing on just one community each year has been a successful strategy, he said. To date, the grants have led to mega-projects twice in Rockford and Mendon and once in Montezuma, and have helped revitalize the Murlin Avenue area in Celina near the Reynolds & Reynolds plant.
What's next?
"I'd like to do specific areas within some of the other villages," he said.
Because the grants are exclusively available for low- to moderate-income areas, some of the towns in the county aren't eligible as a whole, he explained. He's still exploring the possibilities.
Ebbing noted the Burkettsville project and previous community enhancements wouldn't be possible without the help of town councils, mayors, county commissioners and local engineers.
"It really takes a team effort," he added.
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