NEW MARKET -- Town Council members unanimously approved three Facade Enhancement Grant applications totaling $10,000, the annual amount the town sets for the grant, during their regular monthly meeting on Monday night.

The council voted 6-0 to divide the grant money among the three applicants based on the amount of money each invested in their respective facade enhancement projects.

The council awarded property owner Steven Custer $5,000 to go toward a roof replacement at his property at 9356 and 9358 N. Congress St. Town Manager Todd Walters noted the projected is about $16,000. The two far less costly projects -- at New Market Tire & Service at 120 E. Old Cross Road (to replace a side door with a garage door and walk-through door, according to Walters) and at The Home Store at 9369 N. Congress St. (for landscaping and to add benches to an old alleyway next to the building) -- are estimated at $5,550 and $5,965, respectively, Walters said. Each were awarded $2,500 each.

A fourth property owner withdrew their application for the grant program on Monday afternoon, Walters said.

Though council members unanimously approved the three grant applications, council member Daryl Watkins stated before the vote that he preferred splitting the money between the Custer property and the tire shop, noting that though he appreciated the property owners’ willingness to spruce up the alleyway next to The Home Store, “there’s not much of a view there.”

Vice-mayor Peggy Harkness, who made the motion to divide up the money as it was approved, replied that The Home Store, owned by Mark and Karla Kokkonen, “invests a lot in the community” and is “very important to the town.” Harkness added that letting that alleyway go untouched would lead to the space becoming an “eyesore” to the community.

“To me, any property owner who’s willing to invest in the town and take the time to look after that and enhance it, that’s a plus,” Harkness said. “And they’re an important business to our town, and we want to make our town attractive. You can walk down the street and see little alleyways and they don’t look so good. So to the extent that our businesses will take the time and effort to enhance a small alleyway, and while it might not be the most attractive, to the extent that they make it look better, I applaud them and I think that’s a good thing.”

Mayor Larry Bompiani also presented a grant on behalf of the town in the amount of $2,000 to the Rouss Center for the Arts during Monday’s meeting.

Afterward, council members went into closed session to interview four candidates for two vacant seats on the New Market Planning Commission. Following the closed session, the council appointed Harry Wine Jr. and Larry Hale to those seats, Walters stated in an email on Tuesday.

During an update on town events on Monday, New Market Events and Marketing Director Amber Smoot addressed the town’s plans for celebrating the upcoming Halloween holiday during the COVID-19 pandemic. She noted that the town would not be holding its annual “Trick or Treat on Congress Street” event due to restrictions on social gatherings.

“I’m not saying the town is canceling Halloween,” Smoot said during Monday’s meeting. “... I’m saying the event ‘Trick or Treat on Congress Street’ will not be held because it has grown in popularity and we are seeing hundreds and hundreds of people in the downtown area. It’s very hard to control that due to COVID concerns.”

Smoot added, “Right now I’m trying to think of other fun ways we can highlight Halloween as a community.”

Smoot also noted that National Night Out, an annual event hosted by the New Market Police Department that was rescheduled from its original August date, is coming up on Oct. 6. This year, members of the Police Department will be visiting different areas of town rather than gathering at the New Market Community Park, Smoot said.

Harkness, Watkins and fellow council members Doug Bradley, Janice Hannah, Bob King and Scott Wymer and Mayor Bompiani all attended Monday's meeting.

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