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Code violations fixed with downtown Florence rehab grants
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FLORENCE — Five vacant North Main Street buildings will receive grants from the town to correct code violations, and a sixth application is pending.

Grants totaling $181,521 have been approved to date for the town’s Downtown Commercial Rehabilitation Program, Florence Economic Development Director Elan Vallender said.

Most of the applications have been for safety issues such as fire sprinklers and electrical systems, furthering the goal of seeing these buildings open for business again, Vallender said.

One of these, the historic W.C. Smith Building, is actually two addresses at 368 and 374 N. Main St. It was most recently a gun shop but was known for many years prior as Florence Market.

Also receiving funding will be the historic Cuen House at 143 N. Main St.; the former police station, now being renovated for a coffee shop at 130 N. Main St.; and the former Gibby’s Cantina at 301 N. Main St. Still pending is an application for the former drugstore at 231 N. Main St.

If that application is approved as well, there will be about $6,500 left in the fund. A couple of other businesses have expressed interest in the program, so it’s possible that all funds will be spent, Vallender said.

The Town Council approved the grants earlier this summer, using $200,000 previously budgeted for downtown revitalization plus $50,000 from the town’s fire sprinkler program. Downtown property owners and businesses could apply for up to $50,000 each.

The grant provides up to 75% reimbursement for work to correct documented interior or exterior code violations. A review committee gave priority to projects that would help a property obtain a full certificate of occupancy.

Owners of buildings currently open to the public could have also applied for this grant, but the applications that came in were for buildings that were closed, Vallender said.

Grant recipients submit their bills for reimbursement. The Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce receives 5% of the amounts reimbursed for administering the grant program.

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Body of Florence man found in farm canal
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FLORENCE — Police and the Pinal County Medical Examiner’s Office are working to establish a cause of death for a 26-year-old Florence man whose body was found in a dry canal.

Donald William Garcia had been dead for perhaps two weeks when farmworkers found his body south of Canal Street and Sellers Road on the evening of Sept. 10. There were no obvious signs of trauma, and Florence Police at this time do not believe it was a homicide, Police Chief Bruce Walls said.

“The Medical Examiner’s Office is going to provide a report to let us know if there is something outstanding, but right now it doesn’t look like that,” Walls said. Garcia was identified with the help of some of his belongings nearby.