FLORENCE — Commercial property owners can have half the cost of improving their facades covered up to $7,000, and half of a new sprinkler system paid for up to $15,000, by grants from the town’s new Redevelopment Area Improvement Program.
The Town Council approved the program Monday, and interested property owners should probably act quickly. The town’s total budget for the program is just $50,000 through the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends June 30.
Town staff proposed making individual façade grants of up to $5,000 and fire suppression grants of up to $10,000, but the council voted for the larger amounts.
The Florence Industrial Development Authority will collect and review applications and manage the awards process. A business owner who leases a commercial property must have written approval from the property owner to participate.
The initial façade improvement program began in 2017 with $20,000 and the town partnered with the IDA to manage it. The IDA awarded a $5,000 grant to True Value Hardware for its north façade, and that project should be completed in the next few months, according to a town staff report.
Town staff also expects Arizona State Parks will apply for $5,000 to assist with porch repairs at McFarland State Park. To date, $13,500 has been earmarked for the two projects, including the IDA’s administration fee of $3,500.
With only one business applying for a grant in two years, “that tells me we haven’t done our job to get the information out there,” Councilwoman Michelle Cordes said. She also asked why the town wasn’t administering the program itself and saving the fee it’s paying to the IDA.
Town Manager Brent Billingsley said the Arizona Constitution requires an independent third party. Vice Mayor John Anderson added, “in defense of the IDA” that funds paid to the IDA come back to the community “sooner or later.”
Cordes also questioned whether town staff’s proposal to cover half the cost of a sprinkler system up to $10,000 was enough. Fire Chief David Strayer agreed these systems are expensive, and $30,000 “is not an unrealistic price.”