By Amanda Ensinger
A heated discussion erupted between residents and township leadership at a recent Prairie Township trustees meeting over a proposed home improvement program.
The board was going to conduct the second reading and adoption of a resolution to implement the Prairie Township Home Improvement Program when residents interrupted with concerns about the program.
Several residents questioned the program, saying it was a waste of tax dollars.
The proposed program, which was introduced to the public at the Feb. 15 board meeting via the first reading of the resolution, provides a 50 percent grant for home improvement projects, up to $7,500. These improvements include landscaping, shingle repairs, roofing, painting, window upgrades and door repairs or replacements.
“This is part of the strategic plan and redevelopment study initiatives,” said Tracy Hatmaker, township administrator. “The board wants to encourage and push additional investment in neighborhoods to improve the township.”
This isn’t the first grant program the township has offered community members to encourage them to improve their properties. The township has an annual sidewalk improvement program for residents and had a business signage program to help business owners upgrade their store signage.
However, before the resolution could be passed, residents expressed their concern about the program, saying it didn’t make sense and was a low-income program.
“The idea is to get some people off the fence and bring investment to the neighborhoods,” Hatmaker said. “It is not a low-income grant program. It is for moderate income residents.”
Hatmaker said households who make up to $120,000 a year can apply for the grant. He also added that grants will be awarded on a first come first serve basis. The total budget for the program would be $100,000.
Residents then complained that people who make $120,000 could afford to pay for their own home improvements.
Hatmaker explained that they determined the income based on incomes set by other similar programs they have seen, including a program in Whitehall.
Hatmaker also added that some communities feel there should be no income cap.
“A lot of people have said the township needs to do something to improve the appearance of houses in the neighborhoods. So this is a step to do that,” Hatmaker said.
Residents also questioned how the township will choose grant recipients and how they will ensure they complete the project before giving them the grant money.
Hatmaker said the township was still determining those details, but that Whitehall picks their recipients via a lottery and that each home is inspected after the project is complete before any money is awarded.
Grants were originally going to be accepted starting March 31, but after the community reaction the trustees decided to table the resolution until more details can be determined.