WILMINGTON — If local officials are successful in an AARP grant application, downtown Wilmington will have 22 new age-friendly benches for resting, people watching and visiting.
Clinton County Regional Planning Commission (RPC) Associate Director Stephen Crouch told county commissioners Monday the new benches would make downtown more accessible for older adults and people with disabilities, and also encourage social interaction by arranging some of the benches to face one another.
The proposed benches are equipped with hand rails (arm rests), making it easier to lift oneself off the bench, and have a seating height of 19 inches which is said to be optimal for decreasing chair rise effort, Crouch stated.
Downtown Wilmington has the highest concentration of pedestrian activity in Clinton County, according to Crouch.
While the grant is a competitive one — not all who apply will be awarded a grant — Crouch feels the local application’s chances are enhanced thanks to Clinton County officially joining the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) Network of Age-Friendly Communities in September 2018.
The proposed bench locations are: 12 benches on courthouse square (compared to eight currently), two benches near the entrance of General Denver on Mulberry Street, two near TinCap on Sugartree Street, one bench near the Wine Cellar/Rome Jewelers on Main Street, one near Fiesta Veracruz on Locust Street, two benches near the Clinton County History Center (near the Lincoln and Locust Streets corner), and two replacement benches in the seating area behind Wilmington City Hall off Locust Street.
The proposed seating improvements are black, steel benches that will last longer than wooden benches.
The grant amount being applied for will be a little over $16,000. The City of Wilmington would provide matching funds in the form of donated labor by installing the benches.
The AARP Community Challenge grant program is part of a nationwide AARP Livable Communities initiative that helps communities become great places to live for residents of all ages, states the AARP website. For the first-ever AARP Community Challenge grants in 2017, AARP received nearly 1,200 applications and chose 88 winning grantees. In 2018, AARP received almost 1,600 applications and funded 129 projects.
In a separate appointment Monday in the commissioners office, Chief Deputy Col. Brian Prickett of the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office spoke about an upcoming Clinton County first-responders memorial which he personally hopes will be located on courthouse square.
Prickett gave the background of the project. He said he talked during Ohio capital budget seasons with then-Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger about how it would be nice to have a first-responders memorial/structure in Clinton County as some other counties have. Rosenberger was able to get $250,000 within the state capital budget allocated to Clinton County for a first-responders tribute structure.
“I thought that [dollar] figure was a little overwhelming,” the chief deputy said, but it turned out well, he continued, because an emergency tower project between Fayette and Clinton Counties turned out to be about $175,000 short.
With the help of state Sen. Bob Peterson, $175,000 of the original $250,000 was redirected to complete the tower project. “We felt the safety of officers and first-responders was first and foremost,” said Prickett.
“That leaves us with $75,000 for a first-responders memorial, which I think is probably more in line with the values of our county, the conservative nature of our county,” he added.
A committee comprised of law enforcement and firefighter/EMS personnel plus a commissioner will be formed to consider various designs and the location of the tribute.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.