By Betsy Finklea
Stephanie Mitchell, the executive director of the Dillon Community Alliance, made a proposal to the Dillon City Council at their last meeting to allow the group to assume the responsibilities of the City of Dillon Facade grant program for a period of two years.
Mitchell presented the council with a copy of the group’s proposal, a resolution, list of board members, letters of recommendation, and other information.
The Dillon Community Alliance is a tax-exempt organization, recognized by the Secretary of State, Mitchell said. It includes business owners and individuals who want to make a difference in the community and work to improve the city. Board members include Steve Johnson (chairman and founding member), Stephanie Mitchell (founding member and executive director), Rhett Tompkins (founding member), Phillip Kale, Meredith Coleman (secretary), Ashley Webster (treasurer), Danielle Lambert (assistant chairman), Laurel Hayes, and Jonathan McLeod. She said the group will also have members from the community, who can join at different membership levels such as Business, Friend, Family, and Individual. She said they are focusing on businesses first.
Mitchell said as a non-profit, they can help the city benefit in many more ways than just having a city employee do this. She said they can apply for grants and funding as a non-profit.
Mitchell said all have a stake and they want Main Street to look good and for Dillon to be the place to go to in the Pee Dee area. She said things have to look nice and there have to be opportunities for dining, walking, and safety. She said their committee strives to do this. She said they felt they could assist the city with distributing and assisting with the facade grant in a different way because it is easier for a peer to go to a peer and tell them that they may need to spruce up their building and can offer help to get funding.
The committee would like to assume the responsibility of the grant. She said they want to work with the funds that have been allotted by the city.
She said that as stated in the proposal, an advantages are peer-to-peer communications and the committee can remove the burden of the paperwork from the city. She said they want to be a resource for existing and new businesses and be a point of contact. She said the committee will be available to help with the filling out the application, permits, etc. and to assist the businesses in getting their work done in a timely and cost-effective manner.
Mitchell said they want to model their program after Marion and Mullins. She said the towns look fantastic, and they have many new businesses coming in.
They want to do the program quarterly and let the board decide on the applications. They want to revamp the grant process so there is “x” amount for signs, paint, etc. No recipient would receive more than $3,000 as it is now.
She said the grant match of 50-50 has not done much to make an improvement in the downtown area.
She said all of the money has not been used since 2017. She wants the grant to be a 75-25 percent match with the city paying 75 percent and the recipient paying 25 percent. She thinks it will be easier for their committee to manage this than Benny Genwright of Code Enforcement with all he has to do. She said they can make sure that Genwright has all the paperwork he needs so he doesn’t have to chase it down. She said they would constantly be working with the business to get the project from start to finish.
Mitchell said they just want to do what is best for the city. She said they don’t want to have the money; they just want to manage it.
Mitchell said that the city council may have one issue with the proposal. She said the committee would require that in order for someone in the historic district to get this grant that they be a member of the Dillon Community Alliance at the business level for $150. She said they do the same thing in Marion and Mullins. She said for the $150, the committee will provide all of the assistance that she has described. She said that $150 will be reinvested through the non-profit to the city. She said their bylaws cover the entire City of Dillon, not just Main Street, so they could assist other businesses.
Mitchell then answered questions for the council.
To view the entire presentation, visit The Dillon Herald’s channel on YouTube (Dillon City Council, 8 10 2020).
By Betsy Finklea