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Columbia County Observer

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Lake City News

City Approves One-Time Facade Grant Program: A $2,000 Per Business Giveaway Without the Details 


A 2012 view of one block that will be entitled to free money. Read the article.

LAKE CITY, FL – Last night the City Council, acting as the Community Redevelopment Authority (CRA), finally did something about the continuous rundown condition of Lake City's downtown main street. City Manager Wendell Johnson, who has been with the City since 2008, has been unable to generate much enthusiasm for downtown renovations. The CRA approved a one-time $2,000 per business Grant Facade program last night. Without any details explaining the program, it looks like the City will just give the money away.

Before the meeting began your reporter inquired of the City Clerk and City Manager about the details of the One-Time Facade Grant Program. It was supposed to be attached to the enabling resolution, which was set for a vote. It wasn't. The Clerk didn't have it.

City Manager Johnson asked CRA Director Jackie Kite if City Attorney Darby sent her the grant package with the resolution. She said he didn't.

CM Johnson said, "I don't know that there is a document, you will have to ask Mr. Darby that."

Attorney Herbert Darby
In July 2013, Mr. Darby opined on redevelopment. At that time, City Manager Johnson said standards are "counterproductive"

A few minutes later, after Mr. Darby arrived, the CRA meeting convened. City Attorney Darby read the resolution which created the "Special One-Time Awning Grant Program" for the business owners in downtown Lake City on Marion Ave, the City's main street.

Mr. Darby omitted the part of the resolution that explained the details of the grant were attached to the resolution, as they were not.

The Resolution was in front of the Council members.

No one on the City Council asked where or what the specifics were.

City Manager Johnson asked Mr. Darby if the reason the information was not available was because the listing of the eligible businesses was not available.

Mr. Darby answered, "Yes."

CM Johnson continued, "And that's the reason that it's not here tonight is because we're still assembling that?"

Mr. Darby responded, "And there were two matters that had to be decided and Mrs. Kite and I just couldn't resolve them."

The One-Time Façade Grant Program is for businesses on the City's main downtown street.

CM Johnson explained that the awnings are in "pretty bad shape." "The idea behind this grant is one time the CRA will fund up to $2,000 [per business] to replace those awnings."

CM Johnson said the criteria regarding the one time grant was missing.

Many communities across the nation with similar façade improvement programs require building owners to pay 50% of façade improvements.

At one time, the City also required a 50% match, but a lack of interest and enthusiasm to invest in the City's downtown moved the City to up the ante and pay 75%. The 75% rate generated little enthusiasm.

The City then came up with this plan, which is an outright awning grant of $2,000 for what may be fabric awnings, which take a beating in the Florida sun.

The CRA, which is the City Council, unanimously approved the grant program without seeing it.

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