Pickerington will provide up to $12,000 in matching grants to revitalization projects in the city's Olde Village.

Pickerington will provide up to $12,000 in matching grants to revitalization projects in the city's Olde Village.

City officials are hoping to spruce up portions of Olde Pickerington Village by providing up to $1,000 to 12 downtown businesses for exterior renovations.

From May 16 to 20, the city will solicit applications for its newly established Olde Village Commercial Revitalization Program. Applications can be obtained at Pickerington City Hall, 100 Lockville Road, or on the city's website, www.pickerington.net.

Funding recommendations will be made based on the order in which successfully completed applications are received.

From there, funding recommendations from city staff members will be directed to Pickerington City Council's finance committee for final approval at its June 8 regular meeting.

According to city manager Bill Vance, the program is the latest example of Pickerington reaching out to businesses in what could be considered the "heart" of the community.

"In that spirit, the city's 2011 matching revitalization resources will be dedicated to Olde Village exterior commercial property improvements, which will improve the looks and physical condition of these commercial structures and will therefore help elevate this area's property values (and) make way for potential new job creating opportunities," Vance said.

"They could support any vacant commercial structures ready for new commercial tenants and, maybe most importantly, reflect Pickerington's support for its Olde Village that can be measured by visible positive results."

The program is made possible through an agreement struck in August 2009 with Pickerington-based Volunteer Energy Services Inc.

The agreement followed city council's approval of legislation to permit Volunteer Energy to launch a natural gas aggregation program, which allowed local customers to receive natural gas from the company.

As a result of opening the Pickerington market to Volunteer Energy, the company agreed to contribute 5 cents to the city for every 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas sold here.

"In 2011, we received an amount of $13,742 for 2010 gas aggregation," Pickerington finance director Chris Schornack said. "This payment is not in lieu of any taxes or fees that Volunteer Energy may be responsible for annually.

"This contract does not expire and the city will receive these funds annually," he said. "The amount of funds the city will receive annually relies solely on the usage of customers located in the city of Pickerington."

On April 19, council approved providing $1,000 of the Volunteer Energy aggregation funds to support the Pickerington Area Chamber of Commerce's May 22 "Play-a-Palooza," a fundraiser to offset pay-to-participate fees for Pickerington Local School District students.

The remainder of the aggregation funds will go toward the Olde Village revitalization program.

Vance said he hopes the program yields a variety of improvements to the Olde Village's commercial district. Businesses eligible for the funding are those located adjacent to Columbus Street from east of Hill Road South to East Street, Borland from Hill Road North to East Street, Church Street from Hill Road North to East Street, Cross Street, East Street and North Center Street up to the established Olde Village signage.

"Our city officials are committed to finding new ways to fuel the continual improvement of our community, and those who invest in our community, whenever realistic, affordable, opportunities to do so come to council's attention," Vance said.

He added that although the new program is aimed at the Olde Village, it's part of a citywide effort to improve buildings and infrastructure.

He noted council has budgeted $200,000 in 2011 in hopes of landing of a $3-million to $5-million Ohio Department of Transportation safety grant, which would provide for safety and aesthetic upgrades to the state Route 256 commercial corridor.

He also pointed to the recent widening of Diley Road and the expansion of Pickerington's Wastewater Treatment Plant, which doubled its capacity, as examples of the city officials' dedication to revitalizing Pickerington.

"All these efforts can be considered as community building investments, beneficial to a variety of local interests, served by a city council that is paving the way for the creation of new taxpayers and job opportunities as targeted returns," he said.