VanderWall criticizes delay of funds to district project

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Curt VanderWall on Thursday criticized Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for the timing and apparent partisan politics of a decision to withhold funding for a restoration project in Manistee.

Last week the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) met and approved millions of dollars in funding for several projects across the state, including $100,000 in Facade Restoration Incentives (FRI) awarded to the Manistee Downtown Development Authority and $500,000 in FRI awarded to projects in two other Republican senators’ districts.

Since last week’s decision, the MEDC has pulled the funding for the three FRI projects.

“Why will there no longer be funding for three of these projects that were approved just last week?” asked VanderWall, R-Ludington. “I question the timing and the politics of this decision.

“The governor has made known her dislike of the responsible budget we sent her on Tuesday. It’s hard not to see this as a politically motivated decision when more than $8 million in other projects was approved, but these three projects in Republican districts were removed from consideration.”

Facade Restoration Incentives are used to encourage private building owners to enhance or renovate the exterior appearance of their buildings to improve the aesthetic and taxable values of the district overall.

In addition to the Manistee Downtown Development Authority no longer receiving funding, $300,000 in funding for the Alpena DDA and $200,000 for the Paw Paw DDA have also been pulled. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Stamas, R-Midland, represents Alpena, and Sen. Aric Nesbitt is the Republican who represents and lives in Paw Paw.

The pulled projects also will affect three Republican House districts, including District 101, which includes Manistee and is represented by Rep. Jack O’Malley.

“The governor seems to forget Michigan doesn’t end where the freeway doesn’t go,” said O’Malley, R-Lake Ann. “On the campaign trail she promised jobs and investment in Northern Michigan, but like her ‘roads plan,’ her ‘economic comeback plan’ appears to be all talk and no policy. Let’s invest in Northern Michigan and stop these partisan games.”

VanderWall echoed O’Malley’s comments.

“Six districts from the Senate and House — all represented by Republicans — will be adversely impacted by the decision to stop funding,” VanderWall said. “This is going to have a chilling effect on the economy and development in these regions.

“I call on the governor to have the MEDC approve the funding for these projects.”