Osceola's W192 Development Authority ups grant money to $3M in 2018 budget

Osceola County's W192 Development Authority voted Thursday to allocate $2.4 million -- nearly half of its FY2018 operating budget -- for sign grants. 

But much, if not all, of the funding could be spoken for before it becomes available Oct. 1. 

The program, which provides 100 percent reimbursement for new monument signs, has been a runaway success. The authority launched the grant program in January 2016 with a $1 million allocation, and blew through the funding. Last year the board set aside $1.75 million for grants in FY2017, but that funding ran out months ago. 

Executive Director David Buchheit said the authority has approved 70 sign grants so far, and about  half of the sign installations are complete.

"We already have $148,000 in grants approved for FY2018," he added. 

And he's expecting a boatload of applications before Oct. 1, when the sign grant reimbursement drops to 50 percent.  

"It's important to get the application in now so you can get your place in line," said Buchheit, adding he wouldn't be surprised if the board finds itself accepting applications for FY2019.

The county sign ordinance requires all businesses in the redevelopment district to remove their pole signs and replace them with the approved monument sign by 2022. 

The FY2018 budget also allocates $300,000 for facade improvement grants and $150,000 for both building demolition grants (capped at $75,000) and small scale grants (capped at $15,000.) All three of those programs are matching grants for up to 50 percent reimbursement. 

The budget also earmarks $75,000 to update the W192 Master Plan.

"The plan update is really important because they want to create more projects," Buchheit said. "I want tactile projects that can be accomplished." 

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