Recent changes in the Kansas Department of Transportation grant application process revealed potential delays in construction if Marion were awarded funding for the downtown beautification.
“We need to be prepared to sit on our thumbs and wait,” EBH engineer Darin Neufeld said at the Pride meeting Thursday at the library. “KDOT has new people this year. It’s a multimodal department now.”
In the past, the project might have taken six to nine months to complete. Under the new process, Neufeld said it will likely take double the time because of all the intricate layers in the government process.
After Margaret Wilson commented that she was not good with patience, Sally Hannaford asked if the grant would be harder to acquire because of KDOT’s restructuring.
Neufeld said there is the same level of funding that was available when Marion applied for the grant last year.
“There was about $18,000,000 available for grants projects in all categories,” Neufeld said. “KDOT had 34 project applications that all together totaled $50,000,000. Half of those projects were awarded funding. But last year they didn’t fund a lot of big-dollar projects.”
Neufeld said KDOT seemed to spread money evenly between all the different grant categories. There were about two grants awarded in every district.
Marion is in the “scenic project category,” and last year, Marion lost out to an $800,000 project in Lindsborg and $150,000 in Salina.
With the KDOT restructuring, pool competition for grant money is smaller, and Marion would be competing against 16 other districts within the category.
Communities like Cedar Point and Bennington might possibly apply for downtown grants, he said.
When Pride members asked what they could do, Neufeld told them the most effective thing they could do was to get the city onboard with the project again as well as acquiring community and local business support.
The city has to pass a resolution showing support by agreeing to match about 25 percent of the project funding where the grant will cover approximately 75 percent for the grant to be considered by KDOT.
The project would roughly cost $1,034,000. Grant money would cover $770,000 if approved.
If Marion were to win the grant this year, it would likely not be awarded until July of 2015 with ground breaking on the project to commence in 2016.