Council to meet on grant for downtown evaluation

SALEM – A special meeting of Salem City Council will be called for 6 p.m. Tuesday regarding a state grant being sought by the Design Review Board to evaluate buildings in the downtown area.

The Rules and Ordinances Committee of City Council agreed Thursday to ask that an ordinance be prepared to authorize Mayor John Berlin to apply for the Certified Local Government grant and to accept it if awarded. The deadline to file the application is 5 p.m. Feb. 1.

The city qualifies as a CLG due to a historic preservation ordinance already put in place years ago and is eligible to apply for the grant funding through the Ohio Historic Preservation Office. The Design Review Board agreed to seek the city’s authorization to apply for the funding during a meeting just prior to the committee meeting.

Design Review Board Chairman Ginger Grilli explained the grant requires a 60/40 match, meaning the state would provide $22,491 and the local match would equal $15,003 for a total project cost of $37,494. She said the city would have no out-of-pocket cash costs, although some departments may contribute hours through their regular work. That time would be counted toward the local match, along with donated services and materials known as in-kind contributions. She said the affected departments would include the city auditor, the zoning office and the fire department since it handles building inspections for life safety standards.

She said the pre-development grant would cover evaluation of buildings in the defined area bordered by South Lincoln and Ellsworth avenues and Pershing and Second streets in two phases.

The first phase would entail an assessment of each structure, with both a historic evaluation and a structural evaluation. The historic evaluation would look at the building’s historic significance, such as its architecture and whether something or someone significant was associated with the building. The structural evaluation would look at mechanicals, such as air conditioning, heating, electrical, plumbing, the foundation, the roof and the windows, looking for any visible defects.

The volunteer assessment group would then rank the buildings that are considered historic and in the worst shape structurally and those nine buildings would be more thoroughly evaluated by a structural engineer.

Grilli said the goal would be to provide the building owners with information to help them decide what they can do with the buildings. She stressed that participation will be up to the building owners, noting that they know some building owners won’t take part.

“We hope everybody will participate,” she said.

They estimated there are 96 buildings in the defined area, which is part of the downtown historic district.

Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey questioned whether a building owner who decides to participate can be mandated to do anything. Grilli said there will be no mandates. She said the only time that could come into play would be through the city’s enforcement of the life safety standards already in place.

With talk about plans for revitalizing downtown, she said there was a concern the city could lose more buildings than it has to. She said they want to preserve as much as they can.

Grilli is involved in the Technical Advisory Committee, which is a private effort coming up with a plan for revitalizing the downtown. She said the TAC will make its final recommendation during a meeting at 6 p.m. Jan. 31 at the Salem Golf Club.

Mary Ann Greier can be reached at