Redevelopment commission awards two grants, tables third request


Based on the revenue generated from tax increment financing districts in the city, the Seymour Redevelopment Commission divvies that out in three categories.

Infrastructure is 60%, downtown is 20% and education/quality of life is 20%.

In July and December, the commission announces the recipients of quality of life grants after reviewing applications.

Since there wasn’t a quorum for the July meeting, the applications were discussed during the August meeting, which was Monday at Seymour City Hall.

After a half-hour discussion, the commission approved awarding $3,060 to the Freeman Army Airfield Museum and $50,000 to the Seymour Parks and Recreation Department on 3-0 votes. J.J. Reinhart was absent.

The third request, $249,999 from the Boys & Girls Club of Seymour, was tabled until some questions that arose during the meeting can be answered.

The museum is going to put its grant funds toward a historical marker for the USO that would explain how that was housed in the Greemann’s Furniture building in downtown Seymour during World War II. The request was for $3,400, but grant subcommittee member Bonnye Good said per the commission’s guidelines, partial grant funding generally is awarded. That’s why $3,060 was recommended and approved.

The parks department will use its grant funds to add two more pickleball courts at Gaiser Park. Good said the recommendation was for $50,000 because the department is going to put in more than $10,000 in labor and services.

“They have two (courts) currently at Gaiser Park, and they are utilized constantly,” Good said. “If they had two more, they said they can do tournaments and other things to bring a little bit more funding to the parks department. … We do hear a lot of people talking about pickleball. It is a very popular thing.”

The club’s request is for safety upgrades to the facility’s entrance. Good said the project is expected to cost $582,441, but the club has a match of $166,221 and has submitted an application for funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“What they are asking for is more than what our entire budget for quality of life grants is for a year, so when we talked about it in the subcommittee, the recommendation was it might be best they consider approaching the redevelopment commission as a whole as a separate request rather than applying for this,” Good said. “If we do fund them for this, it would be a very limited amount because we literally don’t have that much in this line item.”

Good said after the two previous recommendations were approved, $113,130 was left to award in quality of life grant funds.

Commission President Mark Dennis asked members if they thought the club’s request is something they want to devote TIF dollars to.

“I’m all for the safety of our kids, of course, and trying to help if we can do that,” commission member Tim Hardin said. “I don’t want to mislead whatever we send back to the Boys & Girls Club. I don’t want to say, ‘Come back. It’s outside of the grant program, submit to the redevelopment commission’ if we don’t have a feel that it’s something we would even look at or consider.”

Good said she would like to know how many people are served by the club, especially the percentage of families employed by local industries.

Ryon Wheeler, executive director of the club, attended the meeting and said they are serving nearly 220 kids a day, plus another 80 to 90 middle school kids who are using the backfield for soccer. The facility also hosts community events and city volleyball leagues. Wheeler said many of the kids’ parents work at local industries.

Commission Vice President Nate Tormoehlen said he thinks the club’s request fits inside quality of life, but the amount is outside of the commission’s scope for grant funding available. He also said he isn’t sure it fits in with infrastructure because it’s benefiting one organization instead of overall development in the city, and he’s not sure about it tying into overarching education.

“I’m fine with quality of life, not sure coming back with a formal request would support that for true TIF dollars,” he said.

Dennis then asked Wheeler to expand on how the project came to be and how the money would be earmarked.

Wheeler said in his grant application, he explained the club’s four-phase master facility plan.

Phase 1, the quickest and needs to be done fastest, is safety.

“We actually are out to bid and should have hopefully a contractor by this week or next week to move on Phase 1,” Wheeler said.

Phase 2 would involve expansion of interior areas to allow the club to serve more kids and families.

“Our rooms are very small and narrow, and unless we can expand those rooms and make them wider, we can’t serve more kids,” Wheeler said. “We’re on a wait list right now. We were on a wait list all summer. We’ve never been on a wait list in the history of our organization, and so we are wait listed at every single site we have except Country Squire Lakes (in North Vernon). Safety and more space are what we’re looking at to serve more kids and families.”

Phase 3 is better upkeep of the gymnasium and having a code system to enter, while Phase 4 is a community center with two basketball courts, a walking track and a 100-by-125-foot indoor turf field.

“Phase 1 and 2 are reality. We’re going to move on those,” Wheeler said. “We have $400,000 from Lilly Endowment to match with that, being $800,000. We will be doing a $1.2 million project that Lilly is going to give $400,000 toward. We’ve already been earmarked. We just have to get the match.”

Looking at industry, quality of life and education, Wheeler said he thinks the club hits all three.

“We’re working with kids to do that,” he said. “Parents are able to work. I think that’s the biggest thing — we’re giving parents the ability to work. If not, where are 220 kids going to be a day? What would the impact be to employers? I do think that the numbers we’re seeing and the families that we’re serving and where we’re at, to help expand that and offer that, it is going to end up helping industry and education.”

Matt Frische with Reedy Financial Group said he texted one of his coworkers during the meeting and asked if the redevelopment commission is legally allowed to grant the Boys & Girls Club TIF funds for security updates at the facility, and his response was “Not really.”

“I think more inquiry needs to be done into the specifics before you approve or deny a request,” Frische said. “I think there are more things that just need to get worked out before we can have a clear answer.”

A motion to table the matter was approved by the commission. Its next meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. Sept. 25.

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