By Amanda Ensinger
As Prairie Township celebrates the completion of the West Broad Street Streetscape, officials are now focusing on cleaning up the homes around the popular corridor.
In 2017, the board plans to appropriate $100,000 toward an exterior home improvement grant, according to Prairie Township Administrator Tracy Hatmaker.
“The grant is part of the Prairie Township Strategic Plan in which investment in the area was suggested,” Hatmaker said. “We want to invest in the township, as well as encourage private investment.”
The plan suggested an easy way to do this was to offer incentives to community residents to update their older properties.
The township plans to do this by offering residents a grant for exterior home improvements, including outside housing updates like new siding, landscaping upgrades and driveway repairs.
“The grant is for 50 percent of the total renovation costs,” Hatmaker said. “The homeowner would be responsible for the other half of the expenses.”
The township wants homeowners to invest in these improvements too and have a stake in the investments, further ensuring the improvements will be completed.
This is an attempt by the township to clean up the blighted homes throughout the township, as well as update older homes.
“There are a lot of older homes in the township that could benefit from some improvements,” Hatmaker said. “However, these improvements can be expensive, so we wanted to help get the ball rolling by offering a little assistance to help the homeowners with these expenses.”
While the exact amount each participating household would receive is undecided, Hatmaker said they are looking at a similar project implemented in Whitehall. Whitehall’s program provides participating households with $7,500 a year. Whitehall’s program also only allows for half of the grant money to be used for driveway improvements, further ensuring outside housing improvements and landscaping are done too.
“We probably would follow this model, but nothing has been set in stone,” Hatmaker said. “However, we have discussed starting this program in the spring and summer and having it complete by the fall.”
The program would be available township wide and grants would be awarded on a first come first serve basis, similar to the sidewalk program.
“This program is going to be beneficial to the entire township, regardless of if you participate,” Hatmaker said. “These improvements will increase the owner’s property value, which will have a positive effect on their neighbors.”
To learn more about the exterior home improvement grant, visit www.prairietownship.org.
In other township news, at a recent meeting, the board approved spending $13,000 on replacement fire gear, as well as renovating an old meeting room for the road, cemeteries and parks department.
“This will be their employee break room after the renovations,” said Hatmaker.
“Currently, the break room for these employees is in horrible shape so these renovations will upgrade this room to make it more usable.”
The renovations will cost $18,795.