Waynesboro grant discussion snaps 'olive branch'

February 11, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - "We extended the olive branch, and it got chopped off."

That was Waynesboro Councilman Ronnie Martin's way of summarizing Wednesday's 10-minute, at points heated exchange between a Mainstreet Waynesboro Inc. board member and the president of borough council.

At issue was the nonprofit organization's spending of a $500,000 grant due to expire in 17 months.

Craig Newcomer, council president, suggested his board hold a public forum to talk to residents and businesspeople about the state of the downtown, perhaps generating interest in the business incentive grant in the process.

Through that Mainstreet Waynesboro Inc. grant program, businesses with storefronts on Main Street between Clayton and Fairview avenues can apply for rent rebates, equipment purchases and funds toward acquiring property. Three businesses were awarded the grant in 2007, and $380,000 of the allotment remained when The Herald-Mail interviewed the organization's manager last December.


"(The grant) was obtained through the efforts of (state) Sen. Terry Punt for the revitalization of downtown Waynesboro. We initially received it in the summer of 2006 and then we received an extension for the grant so that we have until June 30, 2009, to spend the grant money," Main Street Manager Carole Malin said in that interview.

"The whole idea was to use them as an incentive to attract new businesses to come downtown or existing businesses to expand downtown," Punt said.

In response to Newcomer's proposal last Wednesday, Ernie Brockmann, who is the treasurer of Mainstreet Waynesboro Inc., said he doesn't "particularly think we need guidance from borough council or any other organization who might want to exercise politics or control."

"I'm kind of offended that you took a defensive mode for my (idea). We're trying to do good," said Newcomer, who sits on the Mainstreet board and the borough council.

The proposal to hold a forum was killed by Martin, who clipped a Jan. 25 story about a Hagerstown City Hall meeting held for entrepreneurs to talk about their experiences in the city's downtown.

"I saw this in the newspaper. I called it to Craig's attention to say, 'Hey, this is something we could help with.' It wasn't meant to interfere or do anything else," Martin said.

Brockmann argued that his organization held four "vision" sessions for the community in early 2005. Also, interest will be generated when others notice the success of grant recipients like Zoe's Chocolates and Adventures in Coffee, he said.

"We believe that when they see and hear what we're doing, they'll want a piece of it," Brockmann said.

"I believe Mainstreet is doing a good job with (the grant). There are folks who aren't applying for numerous reasons," Punt said Sunday.

Many potential applicants hesitate when they learn they must remain in business for three years, he said.

"Some think, 'Well, it's a nightmare to fill out an application or a request for funds.' That's not true," he said.

The paperwork is no more complicated than loan forms at a bank, Punt said.

"They have to have a plan on how they're going to be open or market their business. We're not just going to hand out 30 or $50,000 and say, 'Here, open a business,'" he said.

He said he has been pleased that the businesses using the grant thus far provide diversity for the town.

"They each have their own little niche for downtown," said Punt, R-Franklin/Adams/York.

Punt said unspent grant money would return to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development when the program ends.

The Herald-Mail Articles