Two groups seek help from county to apply for grants


The community of Vallonia is looking to the county for help with applying for grants for two projects to make improvements.

The Joe Jackson Hotel committee made a presentation during the Jackson County Commissioners meeting Tuesday to encourage commissioners to consider applying for a grant to restore the hotel in the town.

Shannon McLeod, a grant writer who has worked with the town of Brownstown for grant projects during the last 20 years, made the presentation on behalf of the committee.

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The association needs the county to apply for a grant that would be awarded by the Office of Community and Rural Affairs. Organized governments are the only parties that can apply for the grant, so the association would need the county to be a part of the project for formality.

McLeod said the exterior of the hotel, which was constructed in 1914 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is in good condition, but the interior needs renovation.

The grant would be for $350,000 and take about six months to complete. The work would include renovation on the interior and drainage improvements around it.

McLeod said the space could be used for parties, meetings and other uses by the public.

The committee plans to apply for the grant in the July 2018 grant cycle, and the project would be estimated to be completed by February 2020 if awarded.

The local cost would be $43,000, McLeod said, and the committee is working with the Community Foundation of Jackson County to establish a private donation fundraising effort. The county also would be able to contribute to the project, McLeod said.

A hearing would take place to receive public input on the project, she said.

McLeod said the commissioners should consider applying for the grant because OCRA limits communities to have three active grant applications at a time. She said the county currently has one for a workforce development grant, so applying for the hotel would only leave one spot available if they wanted to apply for other grants.

Having active grants would not prevent the county from seeking grants from other agencies, McLeod said.

Commissioners unanimously voted to consider applying for the grant and took it under advisement.

The other grant proposal is for a new building for the Driftwood Township Volunteer Fire Department.

Jerry Hounshel represented the department at the meeting.

“We are in need of a new fire department, and it’s not a luxury item,” Hounshel told commissioners.

He said the department and the committee both contacted McLeod days apart without realizing it, and the two groups had a joint meeting to see which was more ready for a project.

Hounshel said the hotel was farther along than the department because the department still has to acquire land for a new building. He said the department has only made an offer on a site at this time.

He said the current fire department at 3284 S. Water St. was constructed in 1956 on less than a quarter of an acre.

Hounshel said the department would need space on at least an acre because the department has had issues when it was expanded to hold more fire engines during its last renovation.

“It only allowed them to extend the length, not the width of the department,” he said.

Hounshel said the size and area are not adequate to hold new fire engines, either. Fire engines in 1956 were smaller, he said, and they only had two.

“Now, they have four fire engines and two off-road vehicles — one for fires and one for medical runs,” he said.

Hounshel said it is important for all of those involved in the fire department to leave something better for the next generation.

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