Hard times are not foreign to the Town of Olathe. It is a community that has survived the multitudes of booms and busts of the Western Colorado. It struggled when the highway that once brought people through its town was moved, allowing tourists to easily bypass its downtown corridor. And if it wasn’t for strong volunteer support, the Town’s major annual event – the Sweet Corn Festival – was almost abandoned. There is a spirit that won’t quit in Olathe. The Town staff and board have been diligently working on improving Olathe. “Our main focus has been potential economic development and road improvements,” comments Town Administrator, Patty Gabriel. “Those are the two key elements.”
Less than a year ago, Region 10 reached out to Town of Olathe about opportunities to partner, including support on grant writing. “We really wanted to get the most bang for our buck,” Gabriel comments. So Region 10 and Town of Olathe set out to find grant funding to make this goal a reality. The end result – after several months of applications, negotiations, and discussions – was over $660,000 in grant funding potential for over $800,000 in capital improvements projects.
“The Town of Olathe has had the opportunity to benefit from the grant writing services offered by Region 10. Access to grant writers with the level of expertise that Region 10 possesses is invaluable to a small municipality like Olathe. We have plans to work with them in the future. I would highly recommend taking advantage of this service.”
~Patty Gabriel, Town of Olathe
CDOT: Transportation Alternative Program (TAP)
The first project – a Transportation Alternative Program (TAP) grant from CDOT – had a quick a turnaround; the application needed to be completed in approximately two weeks. The TAP Grant offers funding to support alternative transportation and community safety. The pedestrian corridor between Olathe’s high school and elementary school lacks adequate sidewalks and drainage. The proposed project would extend the existing sidewalk that connects the high school with the elementary school due north. Several pedestrian accidents along this corridor have made efforts to enhance safety vital and relevant.
With additional support from contracted engineer Joanne Fagan, the group coalesced efforts to put together a strong application, complete with draft engineer schematics, letters of support from several community entities, and matching funds from the community. The application process was extremely competitive, and Town of Olathe received notification of the award May 14, 2015. Once a contract is signed, the Town could potentially break ground in spring 2016 upon successful completion of design criteria to meet federal regulations.
Department of Local Affairs: Capital Improvements Plan and Main Street Improvement
Another grant came from the Department of Local Affairs. With so much infrastructure in need of improvement in Olathe, the Town staff and board decided that they needed a strategic and objective plan on project prioritization. So another grant application was completed by Region 10, and more funding was awarded to Town of Olathe to create a comprehensive capital improvements plan. The plan will prioritize the most important projects, estimate capital expenses, and provide funding solutions for any shortfalls too. A request for proposals is near completion, and will solicit expertise locally and regionally.
Region 10 and Town of Olathe applied for another DOLA grant to help with the improvement of the roads and walkways leading up to the downtown corridor. Part of the grant also includes administrative assistance for engineering and design. The application was submitted for the April 1st deadline, and the Town should be hearing a response in August 2015.
Small Changes Grant: New Town of Olathe sign
The Town also secured a “Small Changes” grant from Region 10. The funds were used to make an attractive double-sided, light-backed sign near the highway (pictured above). The sign incorporates the Town’s newest brand and logo. At night time, the sign stands out during your drive on Highway 50. The goal for the sign is to attract commuters and tourists to stop and visit downtown Olathe.
Volunteer Efforts: Lyons Park and Adopt a Planter
Not everything transpiring in Olathe is being spearheaded by local government. There has been a recent outpouring of volunteerism to improve and beautify the town.
A local middle school student saw a need to revamp and improve the local park. With the support of family, this young lady approached the Town board of the possible project. This project grew to enlist the local 4H Club who solicited donations and sponsorships from local construction, utilities, and equipment companies. The group even got Home Depot to donate to their efforts. As a completely volunteer driven activity, there was no cost incurred to local citizens.
Another local initiative that was completely volunteer-led is the “Adopt a Planter” campaign. Barb Kaylor is a local resident with a passion for Olathe. She created this program as a way to enlist local volunteers and donors to beautify downtown. Currently, the program boasts participation from about 30 local residents, and has already started filling numerous planters all over Olathe that greatly enhance the aesthetic appeal of the town. To support this effort, the downtown beautification committee will also be adding new benches, trashcans, and lightning.
One of the key factors for this community are people like Barb,” Olathe Mayor Rob Smith comments. “They come forward with an idea, and all of the sudden it blossoms into this great concept.”
Obviously, there is always room for improvement. But considering the size and budget of the municipal staff, the Town of Olathe is quickly gaining momentum on many new and exciting projects that will greatly improve the quality of life for local residents. “This is just the start of more projects to come, “Gabriel adds. So stay tuned as the Town of Olathe works to enhance the quality of life for its local citizens.
Region 10 Regional Development Services
The tools leveraged by Olathe are a new service offered by Region 10. “The Town of Olathe has had the opportunity to benefit from the grant writing services offered by Region 10,” Gabriel comments. “Access to grant writers with the level of expertise that Region 10 possesses is invaluable to a small municipality like Olathe. We have plans to work with them in the future. I would highly recommend taking advantage of this service.”
“I really appreciate Michelle Haynes’ (Region 10’s Executive Director) thoughtfulness to include so many people,” Smith adds more accolades. “For her to approach us initially, it was a little odd for us because we have never had somebody that interested in helping us. But we couldn’t have done with this without Region 10 giving us the tools to help ourselves.”
If you are interested in enlisting Region 10 to support community development efforts in your municipality, please feel free to contact us at 970.249.2436 to learn more.