~Grant will support downtown revitalization effort of Peru, Indiana~

In April, the city of Peru held its annual “Clean Sweep” event.

It’s a temporary beautification project that has the mayor, his department heads and downtown city officials pushing brooms across downtown sidewalks. With the help of a $500,000 grant, the city will now be able to make beautification efforts that might last a little longer.

After several years of trying and not getting enough points on a 1,000-point scale, Mayor Jim Walker was recently informed the city was one of 22 rural communities qualifying for a Community Focus Fund grant.

The total grant monies were $9,475,196, and Peru was awarded $500,000 for its downtown revitalization efforts.

“When people pass through here, you want them to see a nice, clean town,” Walker said. “We want to keep our downtown looking beautiful.”

Walker said the grant would cover the fourth and final phase of installing handicap ramps and new sidewalks, adding potted plants and decorative streetlights, and placing 3 feet of brick along the curb on South Broadway.

The city’s first three revitalization efforts — two sections on West Main and one on North Broadway — have been completed.

Walker hopes the project can be completed before December, but that depends on how quickly the city receives the grant money.

“This is the third time we applied,” Walker said. “We were 10 points short once, and now we have a chance to get the final leg of this project done.”

He said the city paid for the project’s engineering costs, which qualified for the city’s 10 percent match requirement for the grant.

“This will make downtown much more attractive to everyone,” Walker said.

The grants are funded by the federal Community Development Block Grant program and administered by the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs. Since 2005, this is the 13th round of community grants Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman’s office has awarded.

“Updated infrastructure and community facilities are essential to any community’s economic success,” said Skillman, who will host a ceremony to honor all grant winners July 13 at the Indiana Statehouse. “Projects funded by this grant program positively impact the quality of life of rural Hoosiers across the state.”

For 15 years, Pam Poff has owned Hairtique and Fountain Blues, 24 S. Broadway, “right across the street from the mayor.”

The hair stylist wants the project to begin soon because she feels it’s a wonderful thing for the community.

“This is something we have to take care of,” she said. “It will make the town look better and attract more people and businesses down here. People will come down here and see they don’t have to go to a mall. This will be more personal and now, it will look even better.”

Like Walker, Sandy Chittum also helped sweep sidewalks this spring. However, she said, the grant will allow the city to do more than just beautification and area improvements.

Through the grant, the completed project will make “downtown more user-friendly,” said the Miami County Chamber of Commerce president.

“We are improving this for everyone,” she said. “There is the safety issue because some of the sidewalks are crumbling. We are making it better with handicapped ramps so they can go to the shops with no problem, and we are improving the lighting, making it nice for merchants.

“We all supported and helped out on getting this grant,” she said. “It really is a big accomplishment. We are all thrilled to complete the final part of this project.”

by K.O. Jackson