Main Street program ends
MUNCY – The idea of a Main Street Program takes time to build according to regional director, Becky Fought who announced that Friday. March 16, 2012 was her last day on the job. “Just to build the volunteers takes a few years,” she said during an interview from her office on 13 S. Main Street, Muncy. Many projects are in the works through the program. Designs are in place for paved streets, improved lighting and new sidewalks. “I want a sense of pride to continue,” said Muncy volunteer, Pam Barner. “I live here, my daughter lives here. We made this our home,” she said. “I want the children to be part of their downtown.”
The Lycoming County Main Street Program has ended. It was started in July, 2006 with a four point approach to revitalize downtown communities and business districts. That began with organizing a governing board with standing committees of volunteers to drive the program. Their second point was to promote a positive image to encourage consumers and investors to live here. This was done through special events and promotional activities carried out by the volunteers. Capitalizing on the communities’ best assets was the third approach, known as the design phase.
This is where the program seems to have ended, leaving many projects up to municipalities and boroughs according to Fought. Much of the design will need some kind of maintenance and it trickles down to those who did or have an interest.
The fourth approach, economic restructuring or recruiting new businesses is an ongoing process and one that will need to keep going, no matter what.
A 100 thousand dollar grant was initially received for the first five years to get the Main Street Program operating in Lycoming County. It was administered under Our Towns, a national program. Approximately $430,000 of that money had to be matched. “It was hard in these economic times to continue matching these funds given to the county,” Fought explained. Although the program remains in existence on a national level, it was dissolved here due to lack of funding.
Three managers existed during the course of this grant, Fought retained as regional manager. “This job was so much fun for me,” she said. “I would listen to the people in their respective communities come up with ideas and results.” For example, last year she referred to business owners who came together in Muncy with assistance from Main Street to form the Last Friday events. “They really wanted to do it. They volunteered their time,” she said referring to how many volunteers in each of the communities stuck it out the entire time.
Fought recapped some of the past accomplishments over the past five and half years. Becky Sanguedolce from Riverside Campground in Montgomery used Main Street funds to buy two more businesses by rehabilitating an old building using Main Street resources. Montgomery will continue working a TreeVitalize grant and daffodils will soon be seen blooming throughout the community.
Another project in the works is the restoration of the Veterans Park next to Providence Engineering on 23 S. Main Street in Muncy. The design aspect was funded through PA Wilds, a DCNR grant, but the applicants needed to be part of the Main Street program to apply for the funding. The Muncy Borough will now take over the completion of the park.
“My program was designated as an accredited national Main Street Program for the past two years, which meant the program had to meet national standards,” replied Fought.
Another significant accomplishment described by Fought was the winning of the Pennsylvania Downtown Center or TOWNIE award. This was given for Sabrina Barner’s artwork on the front of Fought’s desk facing the main street window. “I felt it was an accomplishment because we were one of 14 Townie Awards and 41 applied,” she said. “This was a state-wide award, not local among recognition from bigger communities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.”
Not enough applications came in for the funding noted Fought. She said there is still some facade money left in the program that will be available for businesses until June 2013. “So businesses can still apply.” About $50,000 still remains. She notes that one of her biggest regrets was not having more visibility. Originally she was on the third floor of the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce in downtown Williamsport for the first three and half years before she acquired her store front office on Muncy Main Street. This made a big improvement she said. “Once I became more visible it was easier to network and get ideas. Not being visible, people tend to forget about you.”
A Hughesville native, Fought said that she plans on taking the summer off to spend time with her son and 2 grandchildren. “Right now I have worked full time for 35 years. I want to step back and see how I want to finish my remaining working career years,” she concluded. She will continue to volunteer her time to work on the Hughesville Memorial Park project and the Muncy Art Walk.