That hurdle, in a nutshell, required the Borough of Emmaus to become the applicant on the $500,000 state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant being used to help fund the renovation, taking the place of the Emmaus Main Street Partners.
This more significant role for the borough, Pepe stresses, does not increase its financial risk at all. It simply means more work. For him.
“I am the grant compliance officer now,” Pepe says. “I have to deal with all the paperwork now. Our role has significantly increased as far as what we thought was going on versus what our commitment has to be now.
“We are no more financially liable, there’s just more work
now,” he says.
The story of what brought things to this point starts four years ago when the EMSP applied for the RACP grant and reaches its critical point last Friday when Pepe got a call from the EMSP’s attorney telling him that the RACP grant was in jeopardy because the state had suddenly deemed the Main Street Partners an illegal grant applicant.
Without the RACP grant, project developer Village Centre Properties would not receive its expected $500,000 reimbursement -- which equates to 50 percent of the total project cost, Pepe explains. With the building being about one month from completion, the developer has basically spent its anticipated $1 million in upfront costs, he says.
In threatening to yank the grant money, the state said that a municipality was an eligible grant applicant, so Monday night Emmaus Borough Council voted to assume the grant applicant role in the place of the Main Street Partners.
“[Monday] evening, council was frustrated, with good reason,” Pepe says. “We did everything we were supposed to and now all of a sudden we are the applicant for the grant.
“In the end,” Pepe says, “council voted to do it because it was what was best for Emmaus.
“Shame on the Commonwealth for waiting until the project is 2/3rds of the way completed to start making decisions. They are the ones who should be held accountable for this,” Pepe says.