Council hears grant idea

JOHNSTOWN – A Fulton County official told the Common Council recently he needs Glove Cities officials to decide “sooner than later” whether to allow the county to apply for a state downtown revitalization grant.

County Planning Director James Mraz told the council at City Hall about the state’s Brownfield Opportunity Area grant program the state. Funding can be tapped to develop plans to improve downtown areas such as in the cities of Gloversville and Johnstown.

Mraz said several forums by government and business groups the past couple years determined a plan has to be in place before downtowns can be improved.

“Cities need to have downtown plans,” the county official said.

Mraz said the state’s Brownfield Opportunity Area grant program provides up to 90 percent funding to pay for a professional consultant to put together a downtown revitalization plan. The other 10 percent of the local share can be cash or in-kind services provided by his department, he said.

He asked if the city of Johnstown is interested in having the county be the applicant for a grant to hire a consultant.

He already spoke to the Gloversville Common Council about this proposal.

“Our time we put in could be used to offset a portion of all of the local share,” Mraz said.

He said the Glove Cities could apply for the grant separately, but they would be competing against each other for funding.

The council took no action after Mraz’s presentation.

Mayor Sarah Slingerland asked if the city will receive copies of the grant application, and Mraz assured it would.

Mraz said he wants to sit down with officials of both cities to go over the potential scopes of work to plan for improvements in both downtowns. He said there could be potentially one consultant doing work for both cities.

In attendance was city Planning Board member Fredrick Franko, who said his group has solicited input from downtown Central Business District leaders to aid the city’s Comprehensive Plan. He said work has “progressed along,” and improving downtown Johnstown is “one of our real goals.”

First Ward Councilwoman Cindy Lakata said she’s interested in learning about the success of such efforts in other cities similar to the Glove Cities.

Second Ward Councilman Chris Foss said working with the county to improve downtown is a “pretty good idea.”