ALTAMONT — In an effort to encourage business owners to invest in enhancing the face of their community, the city of Altamont offered seven matching grants of up to $1,000.

Altamont City Administrator Christina Schlatter, following direction from the city council, made downtown improvements a priority. Schlatter broached the subject with the Altamont Hometown Economic Leadership Program (HELP) committee, and Shelley Paasch, regional manager for rural entrepreneurship with Network Kansas. Both entities said they would assist in a grant program if the city would invest financially in the program, too. The city said it would give six $500 grants. HELP said it would match those six grants. Network Kansas said it would provide and additional $1,000 toward the facade improvement grant program.

Eight grants were awarded May 31, Schlatter said, aiding downtown businesses and those on Fourth Street.

The grant amounts requested were: The Corner Store, $1,000; Wildcat Extension District, $1,000; Altamont Builders Supply, $1,000; M.J.s Burger House, $1,000; Christ’s Church, $1,000; Baptist Area Office, $577.92; Cycle-Motive, $1,000; Gartner6, LLC, $577.

“Funds are always tight. We just don’t have the foot traffic as in bigger market areas. By them offering the grants, it gives us the ability to put money in things that we maybe wouldn’t have done without the help,” said Paul Reynolds, manager of Altamont Builder’s Supply. “I appreciate anything they can do for the businesses. I thought it was a great deal for us.”

Paint has been peeling off the Altamont Builder’s Supply sign for some time.

“It was looking really bad. We’ve been wanting to get that done for a while. When they offered that, I thought, ‘This is a good opportunity to get that done,’” Reynolds said. “So we’re replacing our signage out in front of the store.”

Catty corner from Altamont Builder’s Supply on Huston is the Wildcat Extension District office.

Wildcat Extension District Director Mandy Marney said she thinks the grants are a progressive way to view community development.

“It’s a big help to us to work on our image, and I’m excited about the possibilities it will have for downtown Altamont,”  Marney said.

Plans are to spruce up the Extension office.

“We’re going to be able to re-stain the siding in front and take care of some water damage that’s happened. It’s an older building,” Marney said. “It will allow us to have a fresh face on the building.

“I’ve seen this in other communities as well, where a group of core businesses will make an effort to really improve the appearance of their building and it just spreads. That’s what we are hoping as well, that this is just contagious within the city of Altamont, and others will take advantage of the program as well,” Marney said.

That is Schlatter’s hope as well.

“I think it’s great,” Schlatter said. “A couple of them are going to get signs, which we know aren’t cheap. Some of them are doing awning repairs, which cost a lot. There’s another business, they have mildew and stains and facia boards that need replaced.”

The Corner Store has never been able to use both of its doors.

“If you go in now, you see, they have a newspaper stand in front of one of them. So they are going to get a brand new door for the front of their building,” Schlatter said.

Christ’s Church, the big building that was a former nursing home, wanted a grant to make the building blend in more with the neighborhood. The owners are going to paint the entire facility to make it more welcoming.

The Baptist Area Office will get a new sign and M.J.’s is taking its marquee down and putting up a new sign.

“I talked to the council a little bit last council meeting and was trying to feel out if they wanted to do the same funds for next year’s budget. It sounds like they do,” Schlatter said. “I’m sure the HELP committee, too, will commit, and then the Network Kansas I’m sure will come in and contribute some, so I’m excited. I hope next year it stirs up people to do some stuff.”

The HELP committee is trying to determine if it wants to provide grants for the same type of improvements next year, or change it up bit, with the money still going for downtown improvements or improvements around town, but perhaps focused on different things. Then, Schlatter said, they could rotate the plans out.

Besides improving business facades, she said it would be nice to see sidewalks brightened with the addition of benches and planters or other decorative items.

“I don’t know if we could get another six or seven businesses to apply for grants next year. Maybe we could. I don’t know,” Schlatter said.

She was concerned when no businesses were responding to the announcement of the grants this year at first. Then, near the deadline, she was slammed. On the last day she received two or three grant applications.

“I was glad to see the results,”she said.

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