I recently ran a poll on this site and on Facebook. The only question was if residents of Greenfield would support a special, dedicated tax from which the revenues would be specifically spent on restoring and maintaining the town’s business district. While there was absolutely nothing scientific about the poll the results show that 90 percent of the almost four dozen respondents favor such a tax.
While those who supported the idea voted with a simple yes, those few who opposed usually posted a reason. One said that the village had already received grant money for this purpose and another said it should be paid for from sewer revenues which were too high. Another seemed to indicate they didn’t see much reason to restore or preserve the business district.
As many of you know I’ve been concerned about the future of Greenfield and especially all the vacant storefronts in the business area. Most small towns in America are having it rough these days and are in competition with each other for whatever economic opportunities that may exist. Everyone would like to have a major employer show up and want to do business in their town. Certainly the economic future of any community is tied to the availability of meaningful employment and that’s what’s missing throughout the nation.
But, if Greenfield is going to compete and attract prospective employers it has to somehow demonstrate ample reason for it to be chosen over all its competitors. If a future Bill Gates comes driving down Jefferson Street there has to be some reason for him to say, “This place is beautiful, I think I’ll add it to the list of potential factory sites.” The simple fact is, a succession of empty, abandoned, decaying commercial buildings does not speak to beauty or a community attitude of care and concern. It doesn’t do anything but make the next Bill Gates press harder on the gas pedal.
Making downtown Greenfield look better won’t be easy, it won’t be cheap, and some of it cannot, and should not, be saved. Doug Karnes is currently working on a project to assess the condition of our business district and offer suggestions about what buildings can or should be saved. Doug is an architect with experience in these matters and at his next presentation in April he intends to address these issues.
Regardless of what his findings are it will require funding and that was the purpose of my poll. To get some handle on the feasibility of a tax for these purposes. The cost of doing anything or doing nothing are both high. Those buildings beyond saving will only fall upon themselves if nothing is done and become an even greater blight. The people who own commercial property, in most cases, do not have the funds to restore or demolish their properties, especially when those properties are sitting vacant and producing no income.
Ultimately whatever happens with Greenfield lies with the citizens of the community. They can opt for letting the core of the village fall into ruins or they can choose to invest the necessary funds in a long-range plan to breathe life into it. There are many people willing to put in the time but what they need are the necessary funds. While grants have been available in the past they never are enough to do all that is needed. Also, in this economic and political climate grants are not nearly as available as they once were. Relying on grants is akin to waiting for the Lone Ranger to rescue the town and leave behind a silver bullet as he departs. The town belongs to the people who live there and it is their responsibility to take care of it.
It is my wish that the village council would consider such a tax measure and put it before the electorate. If for no other reason than to simply get a conversation started and hopefully open the communities eyes to what they are facing.