Front Street project doesn’t earn full council support

Published 7:32 pm Tuesday, July 13, 2004

By By JAN GRIFFEY / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Niles City Council approved allocating about $366,000 from two city funds to extend the streetscape project up Front Street to near Pokagon, where the new YMCA facility is proposed.
However, two city council members -- Scott Clark, who represents the city's fourth ward, and Dan Vanden Heede, who represents the second ward -- voted against the move.
Clark said it makes more sense to finish the work started downtown by continuing it onto Second and Third streets, while funds are available to do so, before moving further up Front Street.
He said it is likely the state would provide funds in the future to renovate the streetscape on Front Street, which is a major truck route. The likelihood of the city again having state money available to renovate the streetscape on other downtown streets near Main is less likely, Clark said.
A major part of the improvements downtown are being financed by loans contingent on the creation of jobs in Main Street businesses. If a specific number of jobs are created, those loan funds will not have to be repaid.
City officials said at Monday night's meeting they have a verbal commitment from some state officials to extend by a couple of years the potential repayment of any money if the city isn't successful in securing the number of jobs it needs to turn loan monies into grant funds if the city undertakes the Front Street project now.
Vanden Heede said he wants something in writing from the state to that effect, something more than a verbal commitment.
Niles Community Development Director Juan Ganum said more of a commitment from the state will be difficult to secure now.
The council voted six-to-two to move forward with the Front Street Project. Voting in favor of it were Georgia Boggs, Pat Gallagher, Bob Chute, Bob Durm, Bruce Williams and Bill Weimer. Clark and Vanden Heede cast no votes.
In other business, the council also approved spending almost $600,000 for the purchase and installation of a new elevated water storage tank for use in improving water pressure ad quality in the east side of the city.