Alfred Housing Executive Director Allison Green with the oversized check from Gov. Kathy Hocul for Wellsville. John Anderson photo.
BY JOHN ANDERSON
In 2021, a Wellsville application for a DRI (Downtown Revitalization Grant) grant became an idea and then a reality when volunteers held meetings and came up with ideas how to improve the village.
Alfred Housing Executive Director Allison (Mosher) Green remembers hitting “send” on the application, right down to the wire by the Friday, Oct. 28, 2022 deadline.
The DRI is for cities and a chance to receive $10 million. But there was something new, a Forward New York grant, which was a spin-off of the DRI and for smaller amounts. The state could give out four $4.5 million grants of less.
Green remembers being able to exhale and prepare to enjoy the Bills game and Halloween that Sunday. However, the group was told they had to be in Buffalo on a Monday to make a powerpoint presentation of the Wellsville project.
The powerpoint presentation did not exist. For M.K. Kellogg, Mike Raptis and Green, it was another round of work to prepare.
On Friday, Jan. 20, 2023, Green was told the Wellsville group should be at the Dunkirk Clarion for an announcement and press conference with New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Green, Kellogg, Raptis, Wellsville Mayor Randy Shayler, Allegany County IDA Director Craig Clark and Wellsville Village Treasurer Melissa Mullen made the trip.
They were pulled aside and told to sit together, Wellsville would be receiving a grant. The group was hoping for anything, maybe $800,000, maybe the $2 million.
During the press conference, Hochul talked about the beauty of Wellsville, the Pink House, and then announced the village would receive $4.5 million, the gasps heard in the audience were real from the Wellsville group.
Shayler said this is now $5 million in grants Wellsville has received, which comes out to $1,000 per resident of the village. The old railroad depot already received a $500,000 grant.
“You all made a real difference and this will last a long time,” Shayler said.
The money from New York Forward is historic. It’s the first-ever funding of its type and it was won by Wellsville and Lancaster.
The money was also escorted into town by the Wellsville Fire Department.
“I thought it was a joke at first,” Shayler said. “That was amazing.”
WHERE WILL THE MONEY GO?
Some of the top ideas from the community in the application included renovations to the Municipal Building, the railroad depot, a potential walking bridge near Island Park and new signage around Wellsville.
There was also an idea for Wellsville to control money and help businesses by using the money toward a new revolving loan fund and micro grant funds.
“There were 10 projects in total that we submitted that we felt would help transform Wellsville,” Green said. “The SInclair Barrell House and new restaurants on the riverfront. using the Genesee River that flows through here as a point of attraction for people to be drawn to Wellsville.”
Wellsville will be assigned a project manager through New York state to make sure the money is used within the parameters of the grant.
“They will sit down and help us go through all of our projects and determine which ones we want to move forward with,” Green said.
Because Wellsville is receiving close to $3 million more than expected, other ideas are welcomed.
“Maybe there’s people out in the community with ideas and we are open to hearing about them.
A LABOR OF LOVE
At the beginning, it was meetings, monthly meetings, public meetings and asking the community if there were ideas.
M.K. Kellogg, is “retired” but continues to volunteer with several organizations in Wellsville, including the Wellsville Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors. She “was a real driving force” according to Green.
The third volunteer to help was Wellsville businessman Mike Raptis, well-known as an owner of the Texas Hot and Rub-A-Dub. Despite Raptis owning businesses and property in Wellsville, his focus was making the rest of the village attractive and bringing in new businesses and residents.
“It became our passion,” Green said. “We spent hours and hours at night exchanging emails, we met weekly, we edited proposals and sent them back-and-forth, we met with community members to make sure they were serious about the projects.
“Mike said right from the start, he loves this community. It’s the love of this community for the three of us,” Green continued. “That’s why we sat around the table, that’s why we tried. I moved away, I came back, I love this community, it’s where my family is and it’s where I want to continue raising my family. The same with M.K., she’s gone away and come back … the three of us just wanted it for Wellsville.”
On Monday night, Raptis told the village board, “we all seem to be passing the praise around toi each other!” Raptis made a presentation to the village board.
Green said it was nice to hear Gov. Hochul talk about during the press conference and with the Wellsville contingency in private.
“She really spoke fondly about Wellsville in her speech and she did that privately away from her announcement. She was thrilled with us receiving this money. She said she loved this area, the beauty it has and how much it has to offer … It was genuine.
What is so special about Wellsville?
“It’s family,” Green said. “It’s where you leave but always come back to. Where eveyone knows who you are and tries to help you out. The small-town feel is something you don’t get in other places … and it’s where fire trucks will escort a mini van down main street with three random people in it with an oversized check.”
Green then added, “We want people to come here, live here, work here and have a wonderful downtown to go to.”