After approving an $8,321 grant earlier this year for Nancy Sims to make improvements to her business Texoma Neon, the Sherman City Council recently approved another grant of nearly $10,000 for the business.


Both grants come from Sherman’s Central Business District Historic Building Restoration and Improvement Grant Program, which is designed to help facilitate permanent improvements to commercial buildings of historical significance to the area, but the $8,321 grant was under last fiscal year and the new $9,991 grant is from the current fiscal year. Texoma Neon’s building at 214 East Houston Street was originally constructed around 1900.


“We did not have enough in the budget for last year to take it all in one bite — so we’re here for our second bite of the apple,” Community & Support Services Manager Nate Strauch said of the planned work on what he previously called one of the city’s architectural crown jewels. “Basically, we gave her $8,000 last year to take care of some lifesaving problems at the building. This larger portion of the grant will go toward some aesthetic improvements to the building.”


The grant program, which was established in 2005, was only utilized once during the 2015-2016 fiscal year, so the council decided to use the around $33,000 left over as the funding for the 2016-2017 fiscal year version of the program and create Project Jumpstart the Heart last year with the $50,000 that would have been budgeted for the Historic Building Restoration and Improvement Grant Program. Project Jumpstart the Heart is the city’s downtown occupancy incentive grant program, which gives approved businesses a reimbursement check for 50 percent of their rent for the first year or up to $6,250, whichever is less.


In November last year, the council approved a $24,679 reimbursement under the Historic Building Restoration and Improvement Grant Program for work to be done on the building at 100 North Travis Street by Los Hermanos Partnership LLC. That left just $8,321 in the program, which is what Sims’ application was approved in February to receive as a reimbursement once work is completed. At the time, Sims said the initial improvements to be done would mainly be facade work.


“I have tried to maintain the historic look of the original building,” Sims said in a document provided to the council. “Last year we refurbished the large double doors facing the street. These doors were (originally) used to allow entry for the new Model A cars to be displayed in the showroom.”


The grant program is funded by revenue from the Hotel-Motel Occupancy Tax and applicants for the grants are required to provide four times the amount awarded as matching funds, so Sims qualified for up to $18,312 for the $73,248 in qualifying work she has proposed for the building, but the city didn’t have the funds to cover that during the last fiscal year. In February, Strauch said city staff asked Sims to come back once the new budget year took effect in October to apply for the additional money to complete the project.


For the current fiscal year, the council returned the funding level for the Historic Building Restoration and Improvement Grant Program back to $50,000, meaning $40,009 will be left for future applications over the next 11 months.


“As we know, all buildings require maintenance,” Sims said. “Older buildings continually have needed repairs. The request for this grant is to aid in many much-needed repairs.”


Sims said she plans to repair the existing transom windows, replace an exterior door, improving interior lighting, repair the roof and replace old signage with the grant money.


“Texoma Neon has been a constant and thriving business for 67 years,” Sims said. “I hope the city of Sherman will acknowledge our contribution and approve this grant.”


The second grant was approved unanimously by the council, with Deputy Mayor Jason Sofey and council member Shawn Teamann thanking Sims for keeping her business in Sherman.


“I just remember when they brought the elevations and they showed the images of what the building was going to look like, it’s going to look pretty nice,” Teamann said. “Nancy, I appreciate you making that investment back into the city.”


The Historic Building Restoration and Improvement Grant Program limits grants, which are awarded at the council’s sole discretion, to a maximum amount of $25,000 per project. Texoma Neon’s approval marked the 12th time this grant has been approved by the council. Local businesses such as Kelly Square and Old Iron Post have also utilized the program in the past. Upon permit approval, projects awarded grants must be completed within 12 months.