SIKESTON - The city of Sikeston has encountered a setback in its plans to renovate the downtown area.
Recently the city was denied a transportation enhancement grant from the Missouri Department of Transportation that would have provided $410,000 for the city's project.
The city of Sikeston, on behalf of the Historic Midtown Development Group, applied for the grant in May in order to begin a program that would increase the sidewalk width on North Kingshighway, repair failed sections of sidewalks, install period lighting, correct curb and gutter problems and put in landscaping along the downtown area.
The grants come from MoDOT, which provides funds through the Federal Surface Transportation Program for transportation enhancement activities in local communities. Over $4.7 million of grant money was applied for by 17 communities across a 14-county region of District 10. However, only $2.5 million was available through the program.
"Sikeston had a really good program, but unfortunately there just weren't enough funds available and some tough decisions had to be made," said Bill Robison, MoDOT planning manager Southeast District. "The main drawback of Sikeston's application was that they asked for more than the maximum amount that we designated a city could receive under the grant."
"Of course, we are disappointed at the turn of events," said Linda Lowes, director of governmental services for the city of Sikeston. "We just have to take a step back, regroup and then go forward again."
Although Sikeston did not receive the grant money, Lowes said downtown renovation is still a top priority for the city.
"Even though there is no grant money, some of the improvements will most likely be made through local funds," said Lowes. "The sidewalk is probably the first order of business. That must be done for public safety because it has become potentially dangerous in some places."
A meeting with city officials and business leaders is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday in hopes of receiving guidance from Bootheel Regional Planning and discussing new ways to fund the downtown renovations.
Sikeston officials and merchants have already submitted applications for two more programs that could strengthen the downtown community.
"The Historic Midtown Development Group has applied for a Neighborhood Assistance Permit. The recipients of that grant are decided in August," said Lowes.
Neighborhood Assistance Programs provide tax credits and operating support to businesses that contribute to community-based non-profit organizations, according to the National Housing Institute Web site.
"We have also applied for a new Missouri program known as Downtown Revitalization and Economic Assistance for Missouri, or DREAM, that promotes the revitalization and enhancement of downtown areas across the state," said Lowes.
The DREAM program is a classification awarded to only 10 communities in Missouri. It does not provide actual funds, but promises state assistance in grant writing and professional advice for downtown revitalization.
"We are doing the best we can," said Lowes. "We have a vision and we are formalizing it into a plan."
Robison said he encourages Sikeston to reapply for the grant next year.
"MoDOT will distribute approximately two million dollars next year under this grant," said Robison. "We will conduct a transportation enhancement workshop next spring and applications will be due in mid-May. We encourage Sikeston and all the other communities that did not receive the grant this year to reapply."
New Madrid, Cape Girardeau, Malden, Hayti and Poplar Bluff are among the eight communities that received the transportation grant this year.