MENDOTA - After only a few years, Mendota's Main Street program may be coming to an end, according to executive director Bill Shirey. He will make one last-ditch effort to salvage the program at 7 p.m. Thursday in the council chambers, 607 Eighth Ave. The public and anyone interested may attend.
"Right now, I would say we're 99 percent done," Shirey said. "This year's membership drive dropped from 19 to 13 (members)."
The state-backed program modeled on the National Trust's Main Street program relies on a public-private partnership to revitalize downtown areas. Since its inception in Mendota, the local program has been plagued by low membership and a lack of adequate volunteers to run the various events intended to draw more activity downtown.
"We just do not have enough money to cover our base budget, let alone anything else," Shirey said. "If we should be able to get enough money to cover our base budget, we still wouldn't have enough volunteers."
Shirey hopes to recruit volunteers and members to support the program's $36,000 base budget. The program is supposed to be funded in equal portions by the city, the members, and event revenue. Shirey said right now the city is funding closer to 40 percent of the budget.
"Overall the events and the grants have been successful, but we just don't have the membership," he said. "I know it's been a disastrous year, but I even dropped the membership fees by 20 percent."
According to the program's guidelines, membership fees are based on the type and size of the business. In Mendota the fees range from $80 to $800 per year. He said the fees are much lower than those charged in other Main Street communities.
Membership fees in Main Street Mendota currently contribute toward an annual scholarship for graduating seniors, breakfast with the Easter bunny, the farmers market from May to October, a scarecrow festival and Christmas Around the Square.
Shirey said the program has received a United States Department of Agriculture grant for the weekly farmers market and they currently are waiting on final approval of a grant for 36 trees and planters downtown that is worth about $48,000. Shirey said the grant already has been approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation and they are now waiting for the Illinois Legislature to make the final approval.
If the program folds, Shirey said the trees and planters still will be installed if the grant receives its approval but many of the other popular events will be discontinued.