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Mythbusting Mayor Murray details stellar grant progress

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pointing out potential areas affected by portions of the $19 million Stellar Communities grant, Greencastle Mayor Sue Murray makes use of an artist's rendering of the project area during Tuesday's Greater Greencastle Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Inn at DePauw.
There wasn't a creaky catapult, a crash-test dummy or any bald guys with moustaches in sight, but Greencastle Mayor Sue Murray played Mythbuster Tuesday.

Speaking to a Greater Greencastle Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Inn at DePauw, Mayor Murray set about destroying some myths about the city's Stellar Communities designation and the $19 million grant package that accompanies it.

"First and foremost," she said, "we did not get a check for $19 million, and we will not be getting a check for $19 million."

So let those visions of a giant-sized Hoosier Lottery-like check for $19,031,287 evaporate right now. And forget about the city getting interest off that amount. The funds will be paid out as expenditures occur.

In fact, the city has yet to see any of the funds promised (to be disbursed over a three-year period) during the March 10 announcement of the two pilot Stellar Communities of Greencastle and North Vernon.

"I saw the mayor of North Vernon on Saturday," Murray continued, "and they haven't seen any money either, so Greencastle's isn't being discriminated against."

Another myth she wanted to dispel was the notion that DePauw University will be the primary benefactor of the grant and related projects.

"Unequivocally DePauw is not the primary benefactor," the mayor stressed. "The City of Greencastle is the primary benefactor."

She pointed out that DePauw has put up the 20 percent match for the $6 million INDOT portion of the package. That's $1.2 million the city does not have, and thanks to DePauw, it will be leveraged against state and federal grant funds.

By DePauw providing funding for the restructuring of the Anderson Street entrance to campus, the city was allowed to "pull down the rest of the dollars," Murray said.

The DePauw project is expected to restore two-way traffic to the section of Anderson Street between Bloomington and Locust streets and includes the likely razing of the old Sigma Nu fraternity house at the southeast corner of Bloomington and Anderson.

"Twenty percent of $6 million, the city does not have (for a match)," the mayor said, noting that the city's annual budget is $10 million.

So without DePauw's involvement and partnership, there would be no Stellar Communities grant, she assured.

The funds are coming to Greencastle through three agencies -- the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) and Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA).

"The agencies all want us to succeed," Mayor Murray said, "but they have never done this before either."

Some of the first things that could emerge from the program are facade improvements and a parking structure for the downtown. The package includes a $3.65 million grant to secure property and build a structure.

"If there is anything that blew us away other than the $19 million itself, it was that somebody was going to pay for a parking garage," Murray said of the planned grant-funded structure. "We thought we would be bonding (to pay) for that."

It might not come to pass that easy though as the city recently received a housing form to complete for the parking structure, Murray said.

"I don't know how to fill out a housing form for a parking structure," she recalled telling state officials. Their response? "Do the best you can."

Since meeting with state officials about the grant funding on March 29, the city has been in a "review and reloading phase," the mayor said.

"The challenges are obvious," she continued in summarizing the project status. "They would like us to be substantially finished in three years.

"We're staggered by it, but excited for it and trying to manage it and maximize what we are able to do. We have a lot of questions for the funding agencies, and they have a lot of questions for us.

"All that being said," Mayor Murray added, "at the end of the day, I wouldn't want to trade places with anyone in Indiana. We have an opportunity that no other communities in the foreseeable future are going to get."

Since the grant announcement in early March, interest in the community has increased notably via contacts with City Hall the mayor said. Entrepreneurs already have been investigating Greencastle, interested in the possibility of doing business in a community that the state has not designated as stellar but has invested in itself.

"Who knows what we will look like in three years," Murray concluded.

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Makes me wish I would have invested into real estate on Ander$on $treet...

-- Posted by ProblemTransmission on Wed, May 25, 2011, at 10:34 AM

Too bad, DePauw did before you could think about it.

-- Posted by anonymous101 on Wed, May 25, 2011, at 7:54 PM

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