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Grant committee reflects on NY Forward process

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By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

The committee tasked with applying for a state grant that could bring millions of dollars into Greenville presented their take-aways from the grant application process to the town council. File photo

GREENVILLE — The volunteer grant committee that submitted a NY Forward grant application on behalf of the town reflected on the process and how it can be improved in the future at the November meeting of the Greenville Town Council.

Committee members Debbie VonAtzingen and Barbara Walter presented the town board with a review of the application and how it can be improved in the future. VonAtzingen and Walter are members of Community Partners of Greenville and spearheaded the grant application process.

“We filed the grant (application) on Sept. 21,” VonAtzingen said. “We had a walk-through with the head of the New York State Economic Development staff on the 21st of October and we walked the parameters of the grant. In the process of writing the grant, we also made contact with Greene County Economic Development and they came up in November and walked the grant. They gave us feedback and we have strengths and weaknesses we wanted to share with the board.”

The NY Forward grant is new in the state in 2022 and builds on the state’s existing Downtown Revitalization Initiative, which is aimed at larger communities. NY Forward is a grant specifically geared to smaller towns.

The grant was announced by the state on July 25 and the application deadline was Sept. 23, giving communities little time to do their research and put the grant application together.

The state will be awarding $10 million to each of New York’s 10 regions, with two grants awarded in each region — one for $4.5 million and two smaller grants at $2.25 million apiece.

The first of the grant announcements will begin to roll out in January and grants will be awarded throughout the year, so a decision has not yet been made, but the committee members wanted to reflect on the process and identify ways it can be improved in the event the grant is not awarded to Greenville this year.

As part of the grant writing process, the committee took surveys of the community to find out what residents like about the community and areas that can be improved.

“They like our local businesses, they like Vanderbilt Park, they like the schools and the sports field and our library,” VonAtzingen said. “What they want more of in Greenville is more businesses within the Greenville Business District, which is the parameters of the grant. They don’t want to have to drive to other towns.”

There was one specific area most survey respondents identified as an opportunity for improvement.

“Food and restaurants were the number one thing that people wanted. Almost everybody that filled out the survey said they wanted that,” VonAtzingen said. “And medical services, specifically an urgent care and a blood draw. And more things to do in Greenville, specifically at Vanderbilt Park and in Prevost Hall, and things for seniors.”

The application process was lengthy and more towns submitted applications than committee members had initially expected.

“The impression we got from the discussion was that the competition was fierce,” VonAtzingen said. “When I first made a presentation I thought not a lot of towns would be ready — 19 applicants went for this, the smaller grant. The larger grant, only four towns applied for it. Many communities filed multiple times; sometimes it might take four or five times to get the grant.”

If Greenville is not awarded a grant this time around, the committee identified ways to improve the application process in the future.

“Where we feel we could do better was our programs and projects needed to be more detailed and ready to go,” she said. “Our Greenville Business District area was way too large… they said to make it more compact. That was their recommendation.”

Having specific plans for a private sector commercial housing project would also make the town’s application more attractive for the state, she said. Private developers can pursue other grants to raise funds for such a project, and having concrete plans for an affordable housing project would go a long way for future grant applications.

“Having a project that is shovel ready, or more than one,” VonAtzingen said. “This is something that we didn’t do as well as we thought we could do.”

The town’s history of successful infrastructure projects was a plus for the application, she added.

“We showed that the town was capable of implementing a project and we showcased the sewer and sidewalk projects, and what that has brought to the improvement of Main Street,” she said. “They loved that the not-for-profit organization Community Partners of Greenville, which is the group Barbara (Walter) and I represent, and the town showed partnership in the development of Vanderbilt Park and Prevost Hall, but again, a major private investor with property in the Greenville Business District with concrete plans and a firm commitment for a money investment was key.”

More detailed project plans with drawings, contractor estimates and a timeline for completion, along with specific information about other funding sources, would also help, she said.

If the town is not awarded the grant this year, there are plans to pursue future funding opportunities.

“We will continue and we hope the town will support us in getting this grant again,” VonAtzingen said. “In the future, we feel it will be possible if we don’t get it this year.”

She recommended the town establish a working committee that will take an ongoing look at various grants that are available and develop specific plans that may be applicable to multiple grant opportunities. The working committee should include a town board representative, several property owners, a member of the planning board, a volunteer grant writer and other community members, and a dedicated website should be developed for the committee.

“If we can start putting that plan into action, we will be ready for next year if we don’t get it this year,” VonAtzingen said.

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