A lengthy city partnership with the Kentucky Main Street Program appears to be at its end.
The Princeton City Council, in session Jan. 3 for its first meeting of the new year, voted unanimously to discontinue the city’s association with the state program, administered through the Kentucky Heritage Council.
The council and city officials are opting instead to return control and oversight of historic preservation in the community to the local level.
The vote came following a lengthy discussion brought about Wednesday when Main Street Manager Kota Young noted that the city’s annual letter of commitment to participate in the state program would be required soon.
Consideration of the commitment — both in time and funding — required, compared with the benefit received, led to the decision to cut ties.
The program, along with the Renaissance Kentucky program once offered through the heritage council, once served as the conduit for major funding allocations to support historic preservation.
“It was a good program, especially for any cities that had any historic downtown area,” Mayor Danny Beavers said Tuesday.
The city’s participation in the state programs beginning in the late 1990s led to more than a million dollars in grant funding for a variety of preservation projects, including a downtown streetscape revitalization and the renovation of the current City Hall and Tourist Welcome Center.
The city’s Main Street efforts were led through the years by a part-time Main Street manager and a supporting committee from across the community.
As the grant funds’ availability dried up, though, the requirements for compliance with the program became more of a burden, Beavers and Young noted.
To be reaccredited for 2018, the city would have had to develop a $35,000 budget for the local program, the mayor said.
“And all of our funds together just met about half of that,” he said.
Young added that the program required at least 45 meetings a year for the local committee and its subcommittees.
“The way that I see it, these guidelines that were put into place by the state made sense when we were receiving state funding,” he said.
Now, the red tape is still in place — “but there’s no green to go with it,” Beavers added.
“It’s a stick-and-carrot situation,” Young said, “but the carrot’s long gone.”
Anticipated financial pressures in the years ahead, due in part to retirement funding uncertainties and other factors, only added to the argument against a Main Street recommitment, he added.
“We have to maximize the use of our taxpayer funding,” he said.
From a philosophical standpoint, though, the city’s commitment to preservation of its historic district remains in place, both Young and Beavers said.
Withdrawing from the state program will only serve to put those preservation efforts in local hands.
“There’s nothing to prevent us from being able to do that with a locally-controlled organization,” Young said.
All the downtown projects undertaken in the last five to six years have been done entirely with local funds and local leadership, he added.
“And we’ll continue to do that as long as we have any money to spend on historic preservation,” Beavers said.
Young will remain in place at City Hall, and while he will not have the title of Main Street manager, the work will be much the same, the mayor added.
“Kota will continue his efforts to promote our downtown business district and work with the Chamber of Commerce to ensure that we get all we can out of our historic area and businesses.”
Young also acknowledged the efforts put in by those who preceded him in the Main Street and Renaissance roles and those who served as committee members throughout the years for their successes in preserving the historic district.
“Looking back, participating in the Main Street and Renaissance programs has left an incredible legacy for our town,” he said.