Council member Alex Douthit speaks in favor of an amendment to the CIty of Kenai’s budget that would reduce funds allocated to the Storefront and Streetscape Improvement Program during a meeting of the Kenai City Council in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Council member Alex Douthit speaks in favor of an amendment to the CIty of Kenai’s budget that would reduce funds allocated to the Storefront and Streetscape Improvement Program during a meeting of the Kenai City Council in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Funding reduced for City of Kenai’s storefront improvement grant program

Just over a year after the City of Kenai established its Storefront and Streetscape Improvement Grant, the city council last week reduced the amount of money allocated to the program in an unanimously approved amendment to their budget for the next fiscal year.

The grant program, established in May 2023, was spearheaded by council members Victoria Askin and Deborah Sounart, with assistance from Kenai Planning Director Linda Mitchell. It provides a 50% matching grant for eligible projects up to $10,000.

Eligible projects would come from locally owned and operated businesses with existing structures that haven’t started construction. The storefront would also need to be visible from a public street and have street-facing windows.

Council member Alex Douthit proposed an amendment to the city’s budget during a June 5 meeting, shortly before the full document’s approval, that changed the amount of money allocated to the program to $30,000. In proposing the amendment, he said he thought the program had been eliminated, and wanted to see $30,000 added to the budget to keep the program going.

City Manager Terry Eubank said that $50,000 had been included in this year’s budget, as in previous year’s, for the grant program.

Douthit continued with the amendment instead reducing the $50,000 in the budget to $30,000. He said that $30,000 is all the money used by the grant program annually in its first two rounds, first in 2023 and then recently in May of this year. He described three projects that received funding in each of those two years, with projects including painting, replacing windows, landscaping and paving improvements.

“Based on the work that’s been done or is planning to be done, it matches what I’m hoping to see,” he said. “Throwing some fresh paint out, maybe throwing some landscaping, those type of things to spruce up our building fronts.”

Douthit’s amendment passed the council unanimously, as did the full budget later that night. Neither Askin or Sounart commented on the amendment.

A full recording of the meeting is available at kenai.city.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

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