More and more pieces are falling into place for the Power Plant Project to proceed.

Project organizer Dina Mason told a recent meeting of the Paragould Advertising and Promotion Commission the project will have to be presented in pieces to the entities most likely to provide funding for those pieces. “Each one of the parts will be presented as a separate project,” she said.

The building, on North Second Avenue between East Poplar and Chestnut Streets, was the City Light & Water utility’s original source of electrical power generation when first built in 1938. It was originally scheduled to be demolished in August 2017, but received a reprieve in response to expressed interest in saving the building. The interest ultimately organized itself as the Power Plant Project.

The pieces of the project include the power plant building itself, the green space/Master Garden, the Farmers Market and the outdoor amphitheater. And Mason said that while she is taking charge of seeking funding for the building itself, she is seeking volunteers for the other parts.

“So I started talking to people who I thought might take each one of those parts on,” Mason said. She added that Greene County Cooperative Extension Agency Staff Chair Lance Blythe had expressed great interest in the Farmers Market part of the project, although he had yet to commit formally to taking on that part of the project. A person interested in the arts and festivals, she said, could hopefully be recruited to take charge of the amphitheater, and so on.

Mason added that the Project had received confirmation that the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program had accepted its letter of intent regarding the first phase of the power plant building itself. The Program has $250,000 in grant funds available. “That doesn’t mean we’ll get it all,” she said, “but that’s what is available.”

The Power Plant Project is required under the terms of the A & P grant it received to find funding to match by the end of next June the total $250,000 grant commitment the commission made at its July 9 meeting. The commission’s grant is $50,000 a year, of which the Project has already received $15,000 for this year for the now-completed drafting of plans.

Commission Chair Jeremy Biggs noted that the separation of the parts of the project would make feasible the completion of some parts independent of the others. “So the building is going to be definitely a multiyear project before it ever opens its doors,” he said, “but the Farmers Market could be done and open.”

In response to a question from Biggs, Mason said progress on some parts of the project would be “absolutely” likely to increase the chances to receive funding from other sources. “They do build on each other,” she said. “They [potential grantors] look at the progress.”

In response to a question from commissioner Kimberly Dale, Mason said that her next step regarding seeking funding will be to approach Blue Cross/Blue Shield for a grant.

“Has there been any thought to Greene County regarding a financial partnership?” Biggs asked.

“I have not approached them yet,” Mason replied.

The Greene County Quorum Court’s Finance Committee has begun deliberation on the 2021 budget, with its next meeting scheduled for 5:45 p.m. on Nov. 30 in the Circuit Courtroom of the Greene County Courthouse.

“This is an economic driver and a quality of life scenario,” Mason said, “it’s not a money maker. The more we talk about it, the more we get people on board with what it’s actually going to be.”

Mason noted the greatly expanded possibilities for what was initially conceived to be just a wedding venue. “The [Arkansas] Municipal League could actually come here,” she said. “Allen Engineering could hold its Concrete classes here.”

Mason added, however, that the facility should not be seen as just an event center.

“It doesn’t just sit there and wait for something to go on,” she said. “It’s also a place where our citizens can go and enjoy green space, local dance clubs can come perform and so on.”

Biggs expressed optimism that a groundbreaking for the project can take place next year.

The next meeting of the commission is Dec. 10 at 5:15 p.m. at the Paragould Community Center.

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