To the editor:

I am writing to explain my support for a proposed program called PACE, Preservation and Community Enhancement.

The city of Madison receives funding each year from Jefferson County's economic development income tax (CEDIT.) City officials did not enact this tax. It was enacted by Jefferson County and can be repealed only by Jefferson County. In 2014, the city will receive $664,075.20 as our portion of the CEDIT. There is currently $304,874 in the city's economic development fund raised from this tax.

 For a city like Madison, not all economic development involves manufacturing. Last summer, the city council put $50,000 from CEDIT into the 2014 budget for a program that would help local residents and businesses in the downtown historic district to improve the exterior of their buildings. The mayor asked our preservation coordinator, Julianne Steger, to look at what other Indiana communities are doing for downtown revitalization and to develop a program for Madison. The result is PACE. Many of Madison's community leaders helped write the PACE guidelines. 

The group came up with a program of loans that would be available for either commercial buildings or residences in the historic district. A panel of citizens will use a point system to determine which projects are most beneficial to our community.

The maximum loan is for $10,000 and the loan applicant must match the amount of the loan with his or her own personal investment in the project. When the project is successfully completed, 75 percent of the loan will be forgiven. The program has many safeguards to make sure the money is used as the city intends. Details of the PACE program are contained in its guidelines, which are currently under discussion and may be changed.

Here's why I think this program is important for Madison.

When you look at what makes Madison unique - the qualities that will allow Madison to thrive in the future - one of the big factors is our historic downtown. It's the reason we have tourism. It's the reason so many people are choosing to retire here. It's the gem we show off when we are working to attract business and industry to our area. It's the key to our survival as a city.

A shabby downtown makes the wrong impression on visitors and on our own residents. A well-maintained downtown benefits us all. A modest investment of $50,000 per year will reap huge benefits in our community's economic development and quality of life. Why would we keep that $50,000 sitting in a city bank account when it could leverage five or more downtown revitalization projects this year?

 If you too support PACE, I urge you to contact your city councilman or speak up at the next city council meeting on Tuesday, March 4.

Laura Hodges

Madison City Councilman at Large