Portland is one of 12 cities in the running for the grant money. Two communities will be selected and the grant recipients will be named March 1.
Among the sites toured Thursday morning were Lafayette Street/Creagor Avenue, Milton Miller Park, Industrial Park Drive and Hudson Family Park.
The grant funds would be used to remove blighted homes along Meridian Street, to improve drainage, to make a series of pedestrian trails and to rehabilitate homes and rental properties. The goal is to enhance the quality of life for residents who live in the north side of the city.
The grant requires $600,000 in matching funds, but city officials are asking that a total expected city investment of $4,944,240 in the projects — mostly on a north side sewer separation — be counted as the match.
The city is asking for a total of $4,682,074 in Stellar Communities grant funds. The grant funds would be used over a period of three years, beginning this year.
By far, the most costly of the projects is the north side sewer separation project. This project, which will separate storm and sanitary sewers on the city’s north side, is expected to cost $5.8 million.
Portland Mayor Bruce Hosier has been lobbying to have $2 million in federal funds earmarked for the project.
City officials are in the processing of raising sewer rates to help pay for this and similar projects. City officials also have taken initial steps toward requesting $4,344,690 from a state revolving loan fund. The loan will be repaid through bonds issued by the city.
Other projects targeted for Stellar grant funds include improvement to West Lafayette Street, pathways for walking, biking, etc., rehabilitation of homes and rental properties, improvements to the business facades along North Meridian Street, improvements to Milton Miller Park and purchasing homes along North Meridian Street that would later be razed.
The series of pathways would be 10 feet wide and run along the north side of Votaw Street, in front of Walmart and Jay County Hospital, then north along Creagor Avenue. The pathways would converge at Milton Miller Park and be connected to paths for the Lafayette Street extension and Industrial Park Drive. This project is expected to cost a total of $531,211.
Plans also call for West Lafayette Street to be improved between Meridian Street and Creagor Avenue. This project would resurface the street and add parking, curbs, gutters and a sidewalk. This project is expected to cost $416,107. Work to extend Lafayette Street west from Creagor Avenue to Industrial Park Drive is expected to begin this year. The city received a $740,000 grant from INDOT to help fund this project
Milton Miller Park is bordered on the south by Lafayette Street. With grant funds, city officials hope to add more playground equipment, shuffleboard, eight new benches, two bicycle racks, a small and a large shelter, new restrooms, landscaping and resurfacing of the parking lot. The trail in this park would connect to Portland Place Apartments, which is housing for senior citizens. The total price tag for this work is $560,308.
Also in the north side area, occupied homes and rental homes would be rehabilitated.
Up to $20,000 each would be awarded to owners of approximately 40 homes in the area. Improvements could include painting the outside of the homes, new roofs, plumbing and new windows. The home improvements are expected to cost $844,000. About 20 rental properties also could be rehabilitated at a cost of $500,000.
Improvements along or near Meridian Street would include façade work on existing businesses and a voluntary buyout program for six to 10 houses along the street.
A total of 16 to 20 businesses have been eyed for improvements.
This is expected to cost $655,000.
In the voluntary buyout program, which is expected to cost $685,000, blighted properties would be razed to make room for future development.
City officials also hope to use Stellar funds to partner with LifeStream Inc. to expand transportation systems. With grant funds, a transit route system could be developed with scheduled stops at certain locations throughout the city. A cost estimate was not created for this project.
Along with Portland, Batesville, Bedford, Greencastle, Marion, North Vernon, Rochester, Shelbyville, Princeton, Union City and Washington are in the running for the Stellar Communities grant funds.