Old Town Jefferson City Grants Aren\'t a Unanimous Decision

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JEFFERSON CITY - The people of Jefferson City are debating whether or not "Old Town" grants should move forward in the 2014 budget. Some of the residents feel that the city improvements have been beneficial while others think more money should go toward the city's schools or law enforcement.

KOMU 8 News talked with people on East High Street to find who liked the changes that have been made over the past three years.

Comments included, "It has been a transformation that has been very, very positive," and "Yes, the city program for this is really helping," from local coffee shop visitors.

"It's fun for young people to get to come downtown and with it being updated it offers a lot more variety for us to do in a small town," said a local Jefferson City high schooler.

One new resident to the area said, "I think the downtown is really great."

KOMU 8 News also asked Facebook users who live in Jefferson City how they felt about the possibility of more money being spent on the downtown area.

The responses that got the most comments came from Patrick Singer and Kay Baysinger.

Patrick Singer said, "Tax payer money should never go towards private interests... for streets, sidewalks, etc. is one thing, but towards private buildings, business, etc.... is bad."

Kay Baysinger said, "no ... people and schools need the money more then the city."

Three years ago a resolution established the committee for the revitalization of "Old Town" Jefferson City. The possible increase in funding toward this part of the 2014 budget is something city officials will be debating for the next few months.

City Administrator Nathan Nickolaus said, "I think it's very important. We have been funding it in the past and more funding could be useful."

Another city official and business owner who has used the system is Carrie Carroll. The 4th Ward City Councilwoman owns Carrie's Hallmark on East High Street in the heart of Jefferson City. She also recently renovated some upstairs lofts on top of High Street businesses.

"The core of our city is the downtown, we are a block from the capitol," said Carroll.

She said the changes make the city more welcoming, not only for the people who live and work there but also for visitors and new comers.

Nickolaus said, "Going back to the inner core of Jefferson City and rehabilitating it and getting people to live there is important because that's the heart of the city."

There are three separate areas in this part of the budget, which are actually made up of grants.

The first is the down payment incentive program, which is made for people who could purchase residential property in Old Town Jefferson City. First-time home buyers in this area can apply for down payment assistance prior to closing.

The second is the property tax relief. Lastly, is the facade improvement program. The goal is to remove the metal facades that were put over the red brick of the Jefferson City buildings in the 60's and 70's.

The plans target buildings that were built before 1955 that are dilapidated or still covered with the facades.

"If you look at our downtown area and you look at what it was, even five years ago, even then most of the buildings were covered by facade's," said Nickolaus. "They are basically just sheets of metal."

Nickolaus said they are trying to get the historic look back to the city and showcase the red brick that it was once known for.

The deadline to finalize the budget is October 31, but Nickolaus said in an email to KOMU 8 News he thinks it will be done in early September.