The city is considering applying for a state grant, which would allocate up to $15,000 to local childcare groups as part of a COVID relief program.
The Community Block Grant would be awarded by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TDECD) and would be funded using American Rescue Act funds. In a recent meeting among city staff and the Southcentral Tennessee Workforce Development, it was decided that a good use for the funds would be to help expansion of childcare facilities.
“We put information on social media following that meeting, and Little Rascals requested $15,000 to expand their playground facilities and to install a new fence,” Assistant City Manager Thad Jablonski said.
Columbia City Council will vote on a resolution later this month, which if approved would allow the city to apply for the grant funds. The grant would also come without a required match from the city.
“It’s a 100% grant,” Jablonski said.
Councilman Danny Coleman asked if, in the future, more funds could be made available for additional childcare groups to apply for. Jablonski said it would be possible for more funds to become available. However, if there is money left over from the initial grant, other businesses could also apply to use it.
“It’s like our recent downtown facade grant program. If all the funds aren’t used, we’ll have a round two,” Jablonski said.
Columbia Main St. to officially partner with city
Since 1984, Columbia Main Street has operated as a nonprofit to promote downtown events like the annual Christmas Parade, fundraisers and other goings on in the city.
However, it never officially partnered with the city in a way that could realize its full potential. One item appearing on the council’s November agenda is a request to authorize a memorandum of understanding between Columbia Main Street and the city, which would create a framework between the two parties as far as its goals to help promote downtown Columbia.
This comes a year after the city approved an item to hire a full-time Main Street manager under the supervision of the Tourism & Marketing Department, after the position had previously only been part-time and not as an official city employee.
“Of course we’ve grown and flourished and it’s been incredible,” Tourism & Marketing Director Kellye Murphy said. “With this program, we need to take it to the next level.”
Murphy added that having a partnership will allow Columbia Main Street to receive things like state accreditation.
Kelli Johnson, Main Street’s current manager, spoke about how by officially creating a partnership between Main Street and the city will create greater opportunities for the community they might not have had before.
“Our board sat down and was very quick to make sure a strategic plan was in place when I came on board in March,” Johnson said. “Defining what we are willing to help with, and what the Main Street board is willing to help with, is what we wanted to bring it out to make sure it was clear. The memorandum is going to be a huge help moving forward, but we’ve already started with just making sure this partnership will work.”
Some of this work includes beautification projects like pressure washing sidewalks downtown, as well as upcoming events like the Christmas Parade and Tree Lighting, as well as First Fridays.
“We are working to make sure people that are coming into downtown, they see that our events are wonderful to attend and put on with an extra level of care,” Johnson said. “And finally, we are making sure communication as a city is going out to all of our downtown merchants and the Main Street community, making sure people understand when things are happening, when street closures are happening.”
Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder also pointed out that, if approved, this would be the first official MOU between the city and the downtown district corporation.
“I think this is a great thing, to finally have something in place,” Molder said. “As we’ve gone around to some of the retailers, one of the things the downtown merchants want more than anything is an open line of communication. Hopefully, that will continue and lead to more transparency for the people downtown.”
This article originally appeared on The Daily Herald: COVID relief funds could help local childcare groups
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