When the time’s right, Braselton should be prepared to apply to a state agency for help to revitalize its downtown.
In 2009, the town asked the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to join its Main Street program, which helps cities improve their downtowns.
The state agency provides technical assistance, advice and financial resources for those cities designated as Main Street programs or Better Hometowns — for cities with less than 5,000 residents.
Braselton established its downtown development authority in August 2009 and asked the DCA in October to join its Better Hometown program.
The state agency, however, said it wasn’t accepting startup cities until 2011 — if it had enough money. Budget cuts from the state led the DCA to not accept more cities into the program.
Former Braselton Mayor Pat Graham, who serves on the town’s DDA, warned that the state’s finances still look bleak.
“We may have another year to get there,” she said at the DDA’s July 8 meeting.
But should Braselton become a designated Better Hometown, it would benefit from plenty of free assistance — especially in historical preservation — and would be eligible for more state grants, according to town manager Jennifer Dees.
Braselton is applying to become a Better Hometown, but it may be too large and have to seek designation into the Main Street program.
During the authority’s meeting, the group reviewed a checklist of standards that it be required to meet to become a Better Hometown.
While the authority has met some of the standards already, it still has some work ahead before Braselton applies to the program.
Already, the authority has drafted a vision and mission statement for its intentions of the downtown area.
Several buildings in downtown — such as the Braselton Town Hall and the Braselton-Stover House — have been restored. The town also plans to renovate an old mill in downtown this year.
Meanwhile, new “compatible” buildings in the district — such as the Braselton Library, Northeast Georgia Bank, and the Braselton Police and Municipal Court Building — have been built in recent years.
A key standard that will require some work for Braselton mandates an operating budget “from a variety of sources.”
That can include fundraisers and memberships.
Dees said she wasn’t too familiar with fundraisers for downtown development authorities, but she suggested a brick-buying program for Braselton’s proposed town green.
The Main Street/Better Hometown program also requires that cities have a paid, professional manager. A Better Hometown manager can be paid time and work 20 hours a week for the program.
The Braselton Town Council, which is the sole financial support for the authority, didn’t provide any money this fiscal year for a paid staff member.
However, the council may start funding a part-time position for the program in the 2012 fiscal year, which starts in July 2011, Dees said.