Grantville will move forward to apply for a $95,000 grant for the interior renovation of the Passenger Depot.
In September, the council approved Preservation South LLC to complete the interior design work at the downtown passenger depot. The firm also completed the exterior work on the depot earlier in 2018.
At the council’s meeting Monday night, City Manager Al Grieshaber reiterated that the depot could be renovated to be “multifunctional.” He mentioned the possibility of a coffee shop along with a welcome center in the front and and/or a meeting room or professional office in the rear of the building.
Earlier this month, Grieshaber said for the city to receive the Rural Business Development Grant, the city must create jobs.
“We could attempt to create four full-time jobs,” Grieshaber said.
Councilwoman Ruby Hines, who was opposed to the vote, said the council had already agreed to designate the passenger depot as a history and welcome center for the city and that it would “be a brave injustice,” if the city doesn’t adhere to what council has already decided to do regarding the depot.
“We were told we had $100,000 in SPLOST money to renovate this history center,” Hines said. “So, it’s good to apply for grants, but they are not always guaranteed you’re going to get the money or how much. We all know that.”
Selma Coty, a former councilmember, said the history center in downtown could be a major attraction. She said according to her research, visiting museums and history centers makes people “feel good and smart.”
Coty said the council should consider how the grant applications will be evaluated and how the funds from the grant will be used, if the city receives the grant.
Coty also serves on the city’s Historic Preservation Committee.
Councilman Jim Sells said the city should try to get the grants because no money will be lost if the city does not receive the grant. He also said he is on the board for an aviation museum, which struggles to get visitors. He said the museum is focusing on flying lessons to attract more visitors.
“Nobody cares. I’m sorry,” Sells said. “It’s heartbreaking to us.”
Sells said the visitors to Grantville are not coming for the historical artifacts, but because scenes for AMC’s hit TV series, “The Walking Dead,” have been filmed there.
Councilman Mark King suggested something related to “The Walking Dead,” could be included in the depot. He said he checked with the city to see how many people visited the history center at Grantville City Hall, which was between one and three within the past year.
Mayor Doug Jewell previously voiced his concern was the city becoming a competitor with other businesses in the city if the passenger depot includes a coffee shop.
“If a coffee shop was such a great idea, don’t you think somebody would’ve thought about that?” Jewell said. “We’ve had some coffee shops, but they only lasted a few months. There are 18 buildings sitting down there empty. Either one of them can make a coffee shop.”
Without the job creation, the city could possibly receive a small grant for under $5,000, according to Dennis Hanthorn with Hanthorn Consulting LLC. The city contracted with the company last year to assist with grant writing.
Hanthorn said grants are small for historical projects and the largest grant he found was for $3,000.
At a previous council meeting, Kyle Campbell with Preservation South said the firm plans to keep the authenticity of the passenger depot and traced historic data regarding the building’s structure back to 1921. Campbell said the restoration of the depot could bring more tourism to Grantville.
The city also:
– Approved the alcoholic and beverage license for the consumption of beer and wine for Ms. B’s Event Center on Lagrange Street.
– Approved signs for Griffin Street Park, Post Street Recreation Building and the Clements/ Malcolm Building.
– Approved the purchase of a 2018 Ford F-150 truck for code enforcement.
– Appointed Marion Cieslik and Scott Perkins to the Historical Preservation Committee.