The Story of Revite
The Glenns Ferry Revitalization Committee (Revite) is a volunteer group of members who are enthusiastic and passionate about improving the community economy with a focus on attracting business and residential growth at a minimal cost to taxpayers. Over the past five years, Revite’s accomplishments have fostered awareness of development opportunities that are a primary solution to the downward spiral of the population and expanding the tax base to lower property taxes in Glenns Ferry. Recognizing Glenns Ferry as a ‘diamond in the rough,’ created the foundation and goal to share its rich history and numerous untapped assets.
Addressing downtown safety and beautification was the door that opened for finding grant funding assistance. Revite discovered a thirteen year old grant program for ‘downtown revitalization,’ commonly known as the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). This Federal program is administered by the Idaho State Department of Commerce (DOC). While funding for this federal program was coming to an end, Revite had to move quickly. The approval to pursue grant funding other than ‘basic city services’ was an unexpected offering for City government. Revite believed that enhancing residential and business opportunity and improving tourism was a better bet than an economy based and blamed on the swings of one or two industrial operations. Recognizing that to compete in the arena of statewide grant opportunities, and mindful of the existing taxpayer burden, Revite would have to compete aggressively with resourcefulness and creativity. Revite struggled, but finally received City Council approval to make a grant application for them by the November 2008 application deadline. Seed money of $15,000 was provided by Rural Development for the initial planning and design requirements.Engineering services were solicited statewide and a top notch grant writer was selected. The timeline was tight with Glenns Ferry facing its Centennial celebration and All Class Reunion set for September 2009. Could Glenns Ferry compete with statewide applicants where only five communities are awarded annually? How could we be considered when competing cities in the ‘normal course’ have as much as 50% cash match or more? In lieu of City funding, Revite conceived the novel idea that ‘private funding,’ the purchase of street lights and benches, ought to be considered the cash match.
Our grant writer, Shawn Charters, was amazed at the overwhelming private support and admitted that never before had she seen private sponsors fill the financial gap on a community’s behalf. When the DOC questioned the application’s promise of replacing substandard sidewalks within the project, Revite was tasked with convincing the DOC of the community’s resolve. No grant funds could be used for the private sidewalks or City streets. Revite responded that their three way partnership was no hoax and just ‘believe in us.’ The City had agreed to tear out the old sidewalk, property owners agreed to purchase the new concrete and the VFW volunteers (average age 70), led by Dale Smith, agreed to form and finish.
The 50/50 odds of being awarded were changed to 85% when in January of 2009, the DOC notified the City that the application had made the ‘short list!’ This required a presentation before the DOC officials and its decision making Advisory Committee. Revite Chair, Jill Laib, amazed the audience with our creative components in stretching the dollars and finding private support that relieved the taxpayers of the normal financial contributions in obtaining the grant funds. Lo and behold, Glenns Ferry was awarded $350,000! Keven Shreeve, Project Engineer and Friend, requested and received an extra $100,000 that had been cut from the original request due to the lack of a City Transportation Plan (at the time). This brought the DOC funding to $450,000 and private sector contributions to over $100,000. The Glenns Ferry project became the ‘poster child’ of the DOC. Jill and the Revite team were asked to be presenters and panelists at DOC and State seminars and workshops to explain how the ‘dollars were stretched’ and share the creative elements of Revite’s fundraising.
The Glenns Ferry Chamber committed $4,000 and asked its Revite Committee for assistance in fundraising for a Centennial Clock, a $25,000 project. Revite looked toward the private sector again and the clock was funded and installed before the September Centennial Celebration. There remains $6,000 to be raised for landscaping the Visitor Center, and design plans are underway now. Sponsors will be recognized on a pedestal with bronze plaque when all funds are raised. Call Revite for details on this final opportunity to be recognized on this downtown Centennial landmark ($500 minimum).
In 2010 Revite had requested the Idaho Transportation Department’s assistance in funding improved lighting and ADA pedestrian ramps at the ‘Welcome to Glenns Ferry’ intersection. In 2011 (with a tip from Forsgren Associates) the ITD revealed they could make a $50,000 ‘gift’ under their ‘Cash for Towns’ program. Revite again assisted the City by providing $3,000 cash, sidewalk contributors, and street light sponsors, totaling $12,000 needed to complete the total scope of the project.
Revite’s fundraising endeavors included two banquets and auctions at Carmela’s, high end raffle item events, and a pancake breakfast by Nunhems, etc. Funds had to be raised for rewarding each street light purchaser with a recognition plaque to be hung on their light. They could select one of the five icons developed by Revite:
The LOCOMOTIVE commemorates the historical significance the railroad had in the town’s development;
The WATERWHEEL of wooden construction, the first means of lifting Snake River water to the fertile lands above its banks;
The FERRY honors Gus Glenn, the community’s namesake, having the vision in developing commerce and river transportation for freight, people, and animals;
The COVERED WAGON symbolizing the pioneers’ trek west on the Oregon Trail.
The NATIVE AMERICAN overlooking the Three Island Ford, from whom the pioneers received guidance in crossing the treacherous Snake River.
With the icons’ historical flare, wooden wagon wheel benches and flowering pear trees included in the downtown improvement project, Glenns Ferry was getting a facelift. The City at Christmas time resembles a small town portrait that Norman Rockwell would have painted. The green antique street lights adorned with big red velvet bows and red lights and the trees in white light garb throughout the remainder of the winter, have greeted visitors and cheered residents.
Glenns Ferry received a makeover and seasonal decorating has become routine.
The accomplishments of Revite seemed to spark renewed hope to many in improving things for Glenns Ferry. A proactive Economic Development Committee arose where mutual goals are now shared. The Revite has many visions from small to large. For several years Revite has worked on its ‘global vision’ of developing a major project to attract light industry, residential growth, tourism and recreational opportunity, a visitor center enlargement and improvement, school children’s routes (safety improvements) bike path hub to downtown and city park, a UPRR Commemorative Park and Simplot Agricultural Museum; and infrastructure as needed for the ‘global vision.’ This project was revealed in mid 2012 primarily due to the majority of grant funding sources, that have established new criteria for ‘job creation.’ Each facet of the vision finds itself connected to creating jobs and improving the economy of Glenns Ferry. RiverHouse Art volunteered a conceptual rendering of this project; including the locomotive (believe in us).
Revite continues to work on its other projects: Welcome sign improvement, business district improved lighting and ADA compliance, UPRR Greenbelt square, Visitor Center landscaping, and Operation Facelift. Operation Facelift’s third year is coming in 2013. Each year several downtown businesses needing financial and volunteer help, to paint and improve, are selected for this Southern Idaho competition. This annual event is the brainchild of the Southern Idaho Economic Development Organization (SIEDO) headed by Jan Rogers and Larry Hall.
Thank you to the hundreds of Revite supporters, contributors, and volunteers. Without you, we would not have achieved our dream and hope that we have met your expectations, and a special thanks to the following for their gracious contributions:
Idaho Department of Commerce – $450,000 Downtown Block Grant;
Rural Development – REBEG Grant (planning money);
Idaho Power Company/Layne Dodson – Idaho Power Grant;
Susan Helton – historical murals on the Simplot building and the old Bostic Livery Stable;
Harry Knox and Pam Swenson – funding the $20,000 Centennial Clock purchase while funds were being raised;
Lou Howard, Dale Smith, and the VFW Boys – time and talent in seeing the sidewalks installed and assisting with operation facelift, the livery barn project, and setting the clock;
City of Glenns Ferry – Initial money for surveying. Sidewalk removal and assistance;
Carmela Winery and Cold Springs Winery – donation of the great wine barrels;
Glenns Ferry Chamber of Commerce – financial assistance and support;
UPRR – financial contribution and preserving the historic coal elevator;
Nunhems/Ron Amarel – donating the food and putting on the hugely successful fundraising breakfast;
Donna Carnahan and Team – organizing the All Class Reunion;
Keven Shreeve, engineer and Shawn Charters, grant writer – believing in us, convincing others, and finding the grant money;
Glenns Ferry Youth – oiling benches and other tasks.
And, of course, the past and present dedicated members of the Revite Committee. Without their loyalty, perseverance and sacrifice, you would visit this project in some other Idaho town.
Pat Madarieta, Idaho DOC Administrator of Grants and Notre Dame fan extraordinaire, well known in Idaho politics as ‘the Champion of Small Cities,’ whose advice, encouragement, and ‘belief in us’ drove the Revitalization team. Pat passed away in 2009, shortly after the Glenns Ferry Centennial Celebration. Pat and his twin brother, Mike, were local home boys having grown up in Hagerman, Idaho. The Downtown Revitalization Project was dedicated in Pat’s memory and is served by the only allowed double-hung recognition sign on the street light by the Centennial Clock at the Visitor Center.