Twice a year, the Seymour Redevelopment Commission has an opportunity to award grants to entities that fall within four criteria.

Those are downtown improvement and beautification, education, quality of life and industrial development.

A percentage of tax increment financing district money is earmarked to award, and the commission’s grant committee has a tough task of sorting through the applications and deciding which ones meet the most criteria.

“We have to be careful where we’re trying to put the money,” said Bonnye Good, who serves on the committee with J.J. Reinhart. “We’re trying really hard to be good stewards of the TIF money.”

During a commission meeting Monday afternoon at Seymour City Hall, Good shared the committee’s recommendations on seven applicants.

In the end, only one applicant was approved for a grant, one was tabled and the other five were denied.

The Seymour Tree Board requested $21,569 to put toward tree replacement around the city and received approval for half of that amount, $10,784.50, after discussion between the commission and Mayor Matt Nicholson.

Earlier this month, the board was formed as a requirement for Seymour to become a recognized Tree City through the Arbor Day Foundation.

It consists of Seymour High School student Paul Montgomery, Steve Stark with the Immanuel Lutheran Church disaster recovery team, Seymour Parks and Recreation Department Director Stacy Findley, Seymour Water Pollution Control Assistant Superintendent Doug Gregory, certified arborist Forrest Willey and Seymour Department of Public Works Director Chad Dixon.

Montgomery attended a city council meeting in 2021 to request Seymour take the necessary steps to become a Tree City.

Along with forming a tree board, other steps include hosting an annual Arbor Day event, enacting a tree ordinance and spending at least $2 per capita on urban forestry, including planting new trees, maintaining existing trees and removing dead or damaged trees.

Nicholson said the city has had an Arbor Day event for several years, and a tree ordinance was put in place about 12 years ago and is currently being reviewed to make some updates.

He said the city comes up a little shy in investing $2 per capita in trees every year, so he reached out to the Jackson County Solid Waste Management District, and it was willing to put in $1 per capita for any community in the county that has a Tree City USA designation.

“We’re waiting on the final draft of exactly how that sounds, but I’ll be making a whirlwind tour of the county to talk to Medora, Brownstown and Crothersville about the chance for them to be a part of this, as well,” Nicholson said.

The secondary part was to secure funding from the redevelopment commission, which would be the other $1 per capita.

Nicholson said the city spends a lot of money each year maintaining trees and trying to replace them, but it falls short on the cash side to get that done.

“This would be the hope ultimately, an annual ask for a revolving program that as long as we report and share with you how it went the year before that you would be willing to help us do it again for another season,” he said.

Commission member Nate Tormoehlen asked Nicholson if there’s any other place in the city budget that could fund the other half if the commission gave 50 cents per capita instead of $1.

He said he could make it work, so Good made a motion to approve funding half of the asking amount, Tormoehlen seconded and Tim Hardin made it a 3-0 vote. Reinhart and Jeff Joray were absent.

Nicholson said he expects the first couple of years of the master plan to involve taking care of the troubled trees.

“Then go from there, whether it be start on the west side and work east or to go to council districts and go ‘OK, we’re going to do District 1 this year, 2 next year’ and work our way through the process, but I don’t think we would be there until 2026, 2027,” he said.

The other applicants for this first round of grants were the Seymour Oktoberfest board, Anchor House Family Assistance Center and Pantry, Community Diner, Seymour Harvest Church, Seymour Museum Center and Seymour Main Street.

The Oktoberfest board’s request of $15,299 to cover the cost of 40 picnic tables and a trailer in which to haul them was tabled after about 25 minutes of discussion.

The board also was going to contribute the same amount for a total cost of $26,299. Good said she and Reinhart recommended cutting that in half, $13,149.50.

In talking to Findley, Good said the new picnic tables, which are the Lifetime brand, made of steel, 6 feet long and about $240 apiece, would benefit city employees who help with the festival’s setup and cleanup because it would take less time to load and unload them and they wouldn’t be as heavy as the wooden ones currently used.

In 2021, 136 picnic tables were used for the three-day festival. If the new tables work out, Nicholson said the goal is to use them to replace all of the wooden ones. Parks and rec also would try to put money in its budget for some new tables because they could be used for other organizations.

Good said the Oktoberfest board also would be willing to loan the new tables to organizations that conduct major events around the city.

Looking at the cost of each of the new tables, Tormoehlen said he’s concerned about their durability and quality considering the wear and tear they would get during the Oktoberfest. Nicholson expressed similar concerns and said the commission could give tentative approval of the request upon the festival board buying some of the tables and testing them out at an event.

Good said she would share that with the applicant.

“I would think if they are going to commit the resources they are going to commit, they would want to know the same thing,” commission President Mark Dennis said.

The requests from Anchor House for a new roof, Community Diner for previously purchased nonperishable food containers and Seymour Harvest for a new chest freezer were denied since they don’t apply to the redevelopment commission’s mission for grant funding.
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