Lisbon mayor, property owners discuss program

LISBON–About 10 downtown business property owners attended a meeting hosted this week by Mayor Joseph Morenz to gauge interest in a financial assistance program that would help them fix up their buildings.

There are 88 buildings in the downtown business district, so Morenz was somewhat disappointed by the turnout, but most of those who did attend seemed interested.

“I got a good vibe, but I don’t know if it can happen this year or in two years,” he said.

The village is eligible to apply to the Ohio Development Services Agency for up to $300,000 in federal funding under the CDBG Downtown Revitalization grant program. Morenz said the June 15 filing deadline may not give them enough time to submit an application, and the next application cycle does not come around again until 2020.

Those who did attend were given a survey to fill out to determine if they were interested in participating in the program and to what extent financially. These surveys are due back to Village Hall by May 11. “It will really depend what the surveys say,” Morenz said, adding but even then a month may not be enough time to put together an application.

Danielle Steinhauser with CT Consultants explained the program to the 22 people in attendance, which included other community members, including some from the Lisbon Area Chamber of Commerce. CT would be paid $7,500 for preparing the grant application should the village go forward.

Participating property owners would be required to contribute $1 of their own money for every dollar in grant funding received. For example, to secure a $25,000 grant or loan under the program, the property owner has to contribute $25,000. The money can be used to pay mostly for exterior building improvements, but it can go toward some interior improvements, such as fire suppression or addressing handicap accessibility issues.

Steinhauser said the grant money is only handed out on a reimbursement basis, which means property owners would have to put up 100 percent of the project costs in order to receive its 50 percent. Village Fiscal Officer Tracey Wonner also attended the meeting and she wondered if some property owners would lose interest in participating after learning they would be required to put up 100 percent of the cost initially in order to be reimbursed.

Wonner said there are a lot of other regulatory hoops property owners would have to jump through to ensure they are reimbursed. She said it would also be the village’s responsibility to ensure the building improvements have been carried out in full compliance with program regulations and they do not have anyone on staff who can do that.

Morenz said waiting two years would give them more time to work out those details and hold more meetings to explain the program to property owners.

“If we do it now or in two years I’m OK either way because this will be good for Lisbon,” he said.