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February 24, 2013

Stellar grant not in stars this year

Officials say time needed to improve future chances.

LOGANSPORT — Logansport will not be in the running for an Indiana Stellar Communities grant this year. City officials have decided to wait in order to modify Logansport’s standing with private investment and prepare for projects they wish to assume.

The Indiana Stellar Communities program is a “multi-agency partnership designed to fund comprehensive community development projects in Indiana’s smaller communities,” according to the website of the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs. Along with OCRA, the other agencies participating in the program are the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority and the Indiana Department of Transportation.

The city applied for the program last year, seeking a $22 million grant that would have gone toward housing units in existing buildings downtown, constructing a city center and improving infrastructure.

Logansport was not among the finalists in 2012. Grants were awarded to Delphi and Princeton.

While last year Mayor Ted Franklin said the city would try again in 2013, he recently said consultants have given him and the committee established to oversee the grant application process good reasons for waiting.

Franklin said one of these reasons regarded the strategic investment plan communities are required to submit as part of the Stellar Communities application process.

“One of the criteria for receiving a Stellar award is private investment,” Franklin said.

Referring to an offer the city rejected last summer from NPR Group LLC to develop apartments downtown, Franklin said he felt the city’s chance of succeeding in this criterion was compromised.

“The city, because of a lot of objection from downtown merchants, turned down that opportunity,” Franklin said. “They rejected the investment. So, it makes it more difficult for me as a mayor to apply for a Stellar grant and say we encourage private investment downtown when we had the opportunity to secure and welcome an investment, but it was turned down.”

Chris Armstrong, a member of the committee set up to oversee the city’s Stellar Communities grant application last year, said she felt taking a year off would help improve the city’s chances for receiving the grant in the future.

“We figured we need to get a few more projects at least started or in the works and show we as a community are trying to do these things,” Armstrong said, referring to the community center and other projects the city requested grant funding for last year. “We’re not totally giving up but we thought maybe we should just take a step back and refocus.”

Part of this refocusing,

Armstrong said, will include condensing goals the city will pursue in the grant application process in the future.

“Last year we thought we maybe went a little too wide,” Armstrong said, adding last year’s plan outlined development projects in several areas of the city.

“We’re thinking they like to see a more condensed plan and just stay in downtown,” she said.

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or mitchell.kirk@pharostribune.com.

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