Toledo could see improvements through proposed grant program

Under a plan by Toledo City Councilman Tom Waniewski, district grants would be created to help rebuild community assets.
Under a plan by Toledo City Councilman Tom Waniewski, district grants would be created to help rebuild community assets.

Toledo City Councilman Tom Waniewski wants to create council district grants he hopes will help rebuild community assets.

He pitched what he’s calling a District Improvement Fund, which would start with $750,000 of capital improvement dollars, or $125,000 for each of the city’s six council districts. If his colleagues approve it, community-based groups would be able to apply for the money to help them pay for neighborhood projects.

It’s a plan Mr. Waniewski included as part of his platform while running for mayor in 2017. After he was knocked out in the primary, incumbent candidate Paula Hicks-Hudson said she would support the plan if elected.

Now that neither is in the mayor’s office, Mr. Waniewski aims to get the grants up and running from his council seat.

Eligible projects could include walking paths, parks improvements, new lighting, or street improvements, and they must demonstrate a public benefit in order to get a chance at the funds. Mr. Waniewski said he hopes the program will encourage Toledoans to be proactive in keeping their neighborhoods desirable communities to live in.

“I think it allows the neighborhoods to get engaged with how their communities look,” he said.

BLADE BRIEFING: District Improvement Fund

Mr. Waniewski, who represents District 5, also said part or all of the $125,000 could serve as matching funds for initiatives that have a higher price tag.

“I think it also allows district council members a stronger bargaining chip for money,” he said.

Council President Matt Cherry called his colleague’s plan a “great idea” and said he’s glad the Kapszukiewicz administration helped develop parameters for how the grant money could be awarded.

He said he’s hopeful the $125,000 per district will lend a boost to Toledo’s numerous neighborhoods.

“There’s a lot of times that we get the same people coming forward with a problem that the city can’t take care of year after year. Even though this isn’t a lot of money, maybe we can take care of some of the small stuff,” Mr. Cherry said.

He also said at-large council members should play a role in deciding how the money should be spent.

“It’s up to you as a district council person to keep the at-large members involved in your district as much as possible,” Mr. Cherry said.

Contact Sarah Elms at selms@theblade.com419-724-6103, or on Twitter @BySarahElms.