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Erwin BMA considering grant program for merchants

Members of the Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen used the final regularly scheduled meeting of 2015 to look into the future on measures that will help make the town more viable in the coming years.
Officials concluded the year with their meeting on Monday, Dec. 28, to address a variety of topics to help the growth of Erwin, including a discussion to provide a Downtown Erwin Facade Improvement Grant Program for downtown merchants.
Town officials are looking at two different options for granting funding for downtown merchants, according to Town Recorder Glenn Rosenoff, including a grant offered through the First Tennessee Development District or the town providing its own grant program.
Regarding the town’s own grant process, Mayor Doris Hensley added that appropriating around $20,000 out of the budget to assist different businesses could help spruce up the downtown area and be a way to bring in new visitors to the area.
“We hope that local business owners would take advantage of this,” Hensley said during the meeting. “We are working hard to bring folks back to downtown Erwin to make it a more vibrant place.”
Another idea tossed around was utilizing local banks to offer different types of small interest loans to provide assistance to businesses.
Merchants in attendance at the meeting, including Ben McNabb of Keeseckers and Steel Rails Coffee House and Jamie Rice with The Bramble, showed support for the grant programs and discussed various ideas of what type of style store facades could be used to attract people downtown.
Officials are expected to meet in the coming months to hash out details to institute a program for downtown businesses.
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Also on Monday, BMA members voted unanimously to consider an approval for the town to participate in the Tennessee Municipal League (TML) Risk Management Pool Property Conservation matching grant program.
“This is a way for us to protect our properties, so there won’t be any issues,” Hensley said.
When discussing the details of the grant, Rosenoff said the exact numbers were unavailable as of Monday, but the grant funding is pegged between $3,000-5,000 and would be used for different items, including fencing, security cameras and assistance with lighting. The TML grant is a 50/50-matching grant that would provide assistance to areas like the Fishery Pool.
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Along with the TML grant, the BMA voted unanimously to authorize the mayor to draw up and sign the paperwork for an application for Community Transportation Planning grant funding.
The program would be a little more of a bang for the buck for the town, with the program holding a 90/10-match that could allow $250,000 worth of funding for an engineering study to promote the growth of travel from Second Street out to Jackson Love Highway and create ways to attract individuals to the area.
Rosenoff added the town had applied for the grant last year, but did not receive it. He also said the town has received assistance with their latest application and hopes are higher that Erwin could qualify for the program when made available.
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In other business, the town reappointed Marvin Rogers to the Erwin Public Housing Authority for a five-year term and re-appointed Loren Thomas to the Unicoi County Public Library Board of Trustees. BMA members also appointed Chrystel Bailey, Lois Shults-Davis and Susan Bokemeier to the library board.
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Prior to the BMA meeting, town officials met in a workshop to address needs at Fishery Park, that included work to lighting at the softball fields on the premises, the pool, creek and tennis courts.
Members decided that at a new year planning meeting they will work to address the immediate needs and what grant funding is available in order to begin work in revitalizing the area.