Editorial: Keeping downtown Danville alive and well is a 'no-brainer' too

July 30, 2004

Mayor John W.D. Bowling seems determined to do everything he can to undermine improvement efforts in downtown Danville.

Earlier this summer, he engineered funding cuts for the Heart of Danville, the local agency that has worked diligently for the redevelopment of the Hub-Gilcher property and for the preservation and development of downtown as a whole.

This week, he took another shot at downtown development efforts. He proposed at a City Commission meeting Monday that $99,000 set aside for downtown improvements should be used instead to help pay for a new fire station on Danville Bypass.

The $99,000 was to be used as the local match for a $400,000 grant to improve sidewalks on the east end of Main Street in front of Burke's Bakery and SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church and to replace sidewalks that will be destroyed during construction of a parking garage on Third Street.


City Commissioners Jamey Gay and Terry Crowley opposed the fund transfer, saying it would mean giving up the $400,000 grant, which has not yet been approved. We agree. The city should wait at least until it learns definitely later this summer whether it will get the grant. Furthermore, it would appear that even if the city doesn't get the grant, the funds will be needed to repair the sidewalks that will be damaged during the parking garage construction.

The mayor didn't pursue his proposal further at Monday's meeting, but that doesn't mean it won't come up again. He usually has a voting majority in his pocket for whatever he wants to do, and he's made it very clear that he will spare no expense when it comes to the new fire station, which is expected to cost $150,000 more than the $480,000 the city has budgeted for the project.

The massive cost overrun is the direct result of the commission's decision to purchase a piece of property on the south side of the bypass that was not only more costly than an alternative site but is more visible - thus requiring a fancier building.

Despite the overrun, the mayor said Monday that he remains convinced the city made the right decision to put "the firehouse out on the hill." He said it was "a no-brainer."

It's too bad he isn't nearly as steadfast in his support of keeping Danville's downtown alive. For many Danvillians, that's a no-brainer, too.

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