Salem council offers help with McCulloch Park renovation
SALEM — City council members committed Tuesday to pledge $5,000 from council contingency funds toward the McCulloch Park renovation project.
If a grant application to secure an additional $30,000 is unsuccessful, then council reserves the right to put in the additional $30,000, Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey explained.
The decision by the Committee of the Whole was made after much discussion and some questioning over who was supposed to be maintaining the city-owned property.
“It’s our property, it’s our responsibility,” Dickey said.
She also said the city is committing to maintaining the property, with city Service/Safety Director Joe Cappuzzello committing to have the pocket park regularly maintained by the city, which is something that reportedly hasn’t happened for years, if ever.
Dickey’s hoping that the city’s commitment will spur more donations for the project being spearheaded by Salem Preservation.
The Rules & Ordinances Committee had previously discussed the idea of the city helping out, especially since the city actually owns the property where the McCulloch department store used to stand.
Dickey referred it to Committee of the Whole since it involved the use of council contingency funds.
During the meeting, Julie Needs, executive director of the Sustainable Opportunity Development Center, reported that Salem Preservation reached out to her about grant possibilities and she in turn reached out to the Ohio Mid-Eastern Governments Association. She then said Eva Slagle, SOD Center Training and Downtown Development Coordinator, found a grant through T-Mobile for small town renovation projects.
Needs sent the info to her OMEGA contact and was told the McCulloch Park project is perfect for this grant, which can be used as a gap filler for what’s already in place. She said OMEGA would prepare the application, with her assistance, but the project has to show that the project cost will be covered. The funding has to be in place. The grants are very competitive, so she suggested asking for $25,000 to $35,000. The limit is $50,000 and the next grant period ends Dec. 31, with an answer expected by the end of January or February.
Salem Preservation has been talking for a few years now about renovating McCulloch Park and taking on the project for the good of the downtown. Original plans were more ambitious and costly, but the project has been scaled back to a cost of $102,000.
Salem Preservation already has $11,000 towards the cost, with another $10,000 from the Jackie Troll Memorial, $1,000 from a Liebe Wein fundraiser and Shane Franks, $1,000 from the Hansell Family Fund and a match grant of $50,000 from Rob and Deb McCulloch.
The city has already helped clean up the area by pulling out trees and shrubbery that had become overgrown and now the old kiosk has been pulled out, too.
Salem Preservation members Jennifer Brown, Karen Carter and David Schwartz all attended the meeting. The project will cover all the plantings, refurbishing of the metal benches, removing, cleaning and repositioning of the commemorative bricks, installation of a gateway arch with the name McCulloch Park on the arch and replacing the concrete.
Brown and Carter are also members of the Beautification Committee of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce and head up the spring cleanup day, which helps to clean up the downtown area. They also take care of the flowers in downtown, planting them, watering them and caring for them. All are volunteers.
She said the area at McCulloch Park had become too much for them to do recently because of its poor condition and the overgrowth of plants.
Several of the council members raised some questions about covering the electrical box for safety purposes and the cost of some of the concrete work. Mayor John Berlin got an estimate of what it would cost for the city to fix some of the cracked concrete, which was $4,000, but that wouldn’t include replacing the steps, which are in poor shape or the removal, cleaning and repositioning of the commemorative bricks.
There were also questions about the maintenance and who would maintain it. Brown said “it’s city property. Who takes care of city property? We’ve done what we possibly can.”
They have a goal of having McCulloch Park as a socially-engaging green space where community members can gather, sit and relax, and possibly have concerts. The area has been used in the past during Freed Fest and Quaker Fest.
Salem Preservation is accepting tax-deductible donations for this project, with Enviroscapes as the main contractor, working with local companies to complete the project.
Donations can be made out to Salem Preservation, note McCulloch Park Project on the memo line. Send to Salem Preservation, P.O. Box 1034, Salem, Ohio 44460.