Johnstown panel discusses downtown grant

JOHNSTOWN – The city Planning Board on Tuesday stopped short of recommending the Common Council endorse a Fulton County initiative to apply for a state downtown revitalization grant on behalf of the Glove Cities.

The Planning Board discussed the matter at City Hall, but members felt they need more information on both the grant and what the city of Gloversville is doing. The grant idea appealed to some, though no action was taken.

Planning Board member Fredrick Franko said he would be interested in what “business model” works for downtown Johnstown. He also said he would recommend his board recommend the council go ahead and endorse a county grant application.

The city Planning Board discussed what Fulton County Planning Director James Mraz told the council in June. Mraz gave a presentation on the state’s Brownfield Opportunity Area grant program. Funding can be earmarked to develop plans to improve cities’ downtown areas.

Mraz said the program provides up to 90 percent funding to pay for a professional consultant to put together a plan. The other 10 percent of the local share can be cash or in-kind services provided by his department. He asked if the city of Johnstown is interested in having the county be the applicant for a grant to hire a consultant.

Gloversville officials said in June it may be better for that city to apply for the program on its own, rather than together with the city of Johnstown.

Johnstown City Attorney Susan Palmer Johnson told the Planning Board that if one of the cities applies alone, Mraz said it “could be competing against each other.” Otherwise, she said, the issue is “kind of out in limbo yet.”

“We’re not in a position to recommend participation if we’re not sure what Gloversville is going to do,” said board Chairman Peter K. Smith.

City Fire Chief Bruce Heberer said the rules of the grant aren’t available yet. But he suggested Johnstown work with Gloversville.

“This part of it is strictly for a study,” Franko noted.

Franko said it would be more “advantageous” to have state funding used for a “bigger vision” on how to bring development into Johnstown. An inventory of what the city already has may not be what’s needed, he said.

Johnson said the city may not know more about the grant until August or September.

“Until the rules come out, we can’t really make a decision,” Heberer said.

New board member Michael Gifford said the board is in a “wait-and-see” mode.

“All of us would much prefer to have Gloversville with us on this,” Franko said.

Johnson said, “Our task might be to at least start thinking about that.”

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at