Funding for Rural Texoma Communities Facing Cuts

Community pride is helping one Texoma town protect and expand it's downtown development.

The City of Electra is a part of the Main Street Program which provides thousands of dollars worth of grants to assist in economic restructuring and infrastructure improvements.

Currently, workers in Electra are leveling side-walks and creating handicap accessible ramps in the downtown area. The entire project is funded by the Texas Capital Fund, yet it's fueled by local support. According to the Main Street Director in Electra, the program protects historical buildings to encourage new growth.
"Economic development through historic preservation is what main street is really all about," said Jannis Hayers.

The Main Street Program awarded Electra a $150,000 grant to preserve and improve the downtown area. The program gives 4 such grants a year to eligible communities.

"This is the third time that we have been successful in a Texas Capital Fund Main Street Improvement Grant," said Hayers.

The City of Electra had to match their Main Street Funds by $15,000. Time pledged by city workers and volunteers along with donations helped to pay for Electra's share of the money. In fact, the benches and street lamps were donated by those who care about their community.

"They have been donated over the years by families, businesses, even some school classes," explained Hayers.

The Main Street Program selects eligible towns to organize and protect downtown development. Experts are called in to help bring new business into the downtown area while supporting existing shops.

"It's a great benefit for getting something started in your downtown," Hayers said with a smile.

The City of Vernon recently applied and became accepted into the program. In the last few weeks, the City of Vernon hired Dan Kelleher to oversee their Main Street Program. City Manager Mitch Grant says Vernon's downtown is full of possibility, but there is a lot of work to be done.
For Electra, who has been a part of the program since 1998, the Main Street effects are obvious.

"We really do look a whole lot better downtown than we did in 1998, and we are all proud of that," said Hayers.

Although the Main Street Program has shown it's worth in Texoma towns such as Electra, Bowie and Vernon, state officials facing a budget crisis may cut funding. Electra's Main Street Director hopes Representatives will consider the benefits of the program before they slash funds.

"We are very concerned because we think, particularly for rural Texas, this is a critical program," she explained. "We certainly in Electra have benefited from it and would hope that there would be a way that funding could be provided for Texas Main Street."
Even facing budget concerns, the City of Vernon is moving forward with their Main Street Plans. The City Manager and new Main Street Coordinator will begin the organizational process of finding a chair person and other board members specifically for the program. The meeting is scheduled for Friday, February 18th.
Mary Moloney, Newschannel 6