Details are being released of a proposal in Joplin to take funds away from one economic stimulus program to help fund another project aimed at increasing business growth.
Kenneth Smith's modest storefront, with a few comfy chairs and a small sign, welcomes quite a few customers.
"We get them from Springfield, Wichita, Arkansas, all over," says Smith.
Smith's used furniture shop faces South Main Street in Joplin. But parking in front of the store can be a nailbiter.
"Where they park, there's not a big area for them to actually step out of their car without maybe taking a chance of getting it," says Smith. "I've had a couple issues about the sidewalks. They can't quite get their wheelchairs up. The broken parts of the concrete, I've heard of some ankles being twisted."
Councilman Dan McCreary is all for repaving and renovating South Main Street.
"South Main Street will absolutely be done," says McCreary.
But McCreary is against an idea of paying for South Main renovations with funds from a different economic project, called JHAP. The Joplin Housing Assistance Program gives up to $30,000 for a down payment on buying a home in the city's tornado affected areas.
"They don't have to pay it back. If they live in the house for 10 years, they don't have to pay a penny back," says McCreary.
JHAP has helped more than 500 homeowners, and McCreary has head the program has a waiting list of about 100 people. The city's planning and development director wants to use about $1.5 million in JHAP funds to fix a bump South Main Street, fix sidewalks, and add some landscaping. The planning and development director says the $8 million project will need another $1 million because workers will have to dig deeper to fix parts of the road.
City officials hope the improvements will spark economic growth along South Main. McCreary says he wants to use taxpayer dollars wisely.
"You have one successful program that has been demonstrated works, and you have another that you hope will work," says McCreary.
The councilman says not as many funds in the South Main project may mean not as many improvements. But Smith sees the benefit of this trade-off.
"Families need a lot of help. The tornado has really affected them. They still feel it today," says Smith.
Joplin's planning and development director was not available for an interview due to a busy schedule. City officials say this proposal to switch funds is nothing more than an idea right now. However, city council may end up voting on this proposal.
The JHAP program is funded by federal grant money for post-tornado recovery.
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