Feb 10, 2023

Barton County renews Facade Improvement Grant program

Posted Feb 10, 2023 4:00 PM

Great Bend Post

Barton County Commission Chair Shawn Hutchinson said he had three reasons to run for office: his kids. The only way to keep his kids - and the many others in Barton County - home is to make the county a great place to live. That's why he pushed for the Facade Improvement Grant program in 2021. The commission has allocated $630,000 since then to help improve downtowns in Barton County communities. Wednesday morning, the commission voted to renew the program with another $250,000 at large.

"When I asked these new commissioners what their No. 1 objective was as a commissioner, there were only two comments," Hutchinson said. "One was more community involvement, and the other was sustaining or lowering the mil levy. I believe this checks both of those boxes."

Hutchinson said the only way to cut taxes is to cut services or grow the tax base. Not only does the grant program increase property valuations, but most of the $630,000 in the first round was used by local contractors purchasing local supplies.

"The other commissioners couldn't have done this because they didn't come on when we came when there were ARPA funds and other funds," Commissioner Barb Esfeld told Hutchinson. "I believe that, through your inspiration, your idea, we found a way to use that ARPA money to keep giving back to our county. It wasn't a one-time spend it. This just keeps coming back to our communities."

There are a few new rules for the second round of grants. Eligible properties must be on the main business corridor in the community, or visible from those corridors. Only 25 percent of the grant can be used for windows, and another 25 percent can be used for signage. With the grant, the county matches 75 percent of project expenses with a maximum award of $20,000. That means a business can complete approximately $26,000 in renovations for just $6,000 out of pocket. The first round of grants assisted 45 businesses around the county. The county will reopen the application process later this month.