By Amanda Ensinger
Prairie Township will not be moving forward with a proposed grant program to help low and moderate income households improve the exterior of their homes.
Township leaders announced at a recent board meeting that they will not offer the Prairie Township Home Improvement Program to residents this year.
“At this point this is something we need to retool,” said Tracy Hatmaker, township administrator. “With the changes we need to make, we wouldn’t be ready for roll out until the end of summer.”
Hatmaker said that since most residents do home improvement projects in the spring or early summer, it doesn’t make sense to kick the program off this year.
“This will give us more time to get this right and we won’t be rushed,” he said.
The need to revise the program comes after many residents said it was a waste of tax dollars.
The proposed program, which was introduced to the public in February, would have provided township homeowners with a 50 percent grant for home improvement projects, up to $7,500.
These improvements could have included landscaping, shingle repairs, roofing, painting, window upgrades and door repairs or replacements.
Grants would have been awarded on a first come, first service basis and the township had allocated $100,000 toward the program.
At the time, Hatmaker said that the proposed grant program was a suggestion that came out of the strategic plan and redevelopment study the township had previously conducted.
“The board wants to encourage and push additional investment in neighborhoods to improve the township,” he said.
However, residents didn’t agree with this suggestion by the study.
“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 showed evidence of this when he noted that households who make up to $120,000 a year were eligible to apply for the grant.
Residents then expressed concern that people who make $120,000 a year should not be eligible for the program as they can afford to pay for their own home improvements.
Residents also questioned the process to choose grant recipients and how they were going to ensure that grant recipients completed the projects.
With all this feedback, the board decided to put the program on hold.
“We are going to take the time and get some of these details finalized so we can start the program at the beginning of the season,” Hatmaker said.
Previously, Prairie Township was going to start accepting applications at the end of March, so in 2018 the township hopes to have a similar schedule.