The idea of a playground in the heart of Georgetown is soon expected to materialize as the effort continues to gain momentum, thanks to a local nonprofit.

The idea of a playground in the heart of Georgetown is soon expected to materialize as the effort continues to gain momentum, thanks to a local nonprofit.

Chris Lecates, president of Georgetown Playground and Park Inc., told the Town Council at a recent meeting that the organization has raised about $39,000 of the $100,000 needed to build a playground on two town-owned empty lots on King Street.

Although the group is still far from its goal, Lecates said its near designation as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization makes it eligible for grants.

“We knew if we wanted to move forward we needed to incorporate to obtain the Holy Grail status as a 501(c)(3),” Lecates said, adding she’s applied for a number of grants, including the Delaware Community Foundation’s Capital Grant, the Arsht-Cannon Grant and a grant available through M&T Bank.

Although the organization is able to apply for grants, Lecates said she is still waiting for finalization of its 501(c)(3) status, which she expects in the coming weeks.

Initial talks regarding a playground began in fall 2012, when the town began considering a measure that would prohibit children from playing in the streets. Specifically, according to Lecates, town officials were concerned about the safety of children playing basketball in the street. The council formed a committee tasked with developing more active recreational opportunities in Georgetown, which does not have a parks and recreation department.

The committee set its sights on the King Street property, which was purchased by the town in late 2007 and early 2008 for the purpose of constructing a new Town Hall. That plan later fell through and the property has remained vacant ever since.

An initial estimate from Liberty Parks & Playgrounds of Clayton reflected a total cost of $167,000. Now, Lecates said she’s working with two alternate vendors, both of whom have given her estimates of around $100,000.

“If we receive grant money, I think we’ll be able to put this playground together within a year, sooner rather than later, for the children of Georgetown,” she said.

Lecates requested the council consider drafting agreements for maintenance and insurance of the playground once it’s built. She also asked that in the upcoming revision of the town’s Comprehensive Plan, the two parcels be designated as “park land,” which she said will help in grant applications.

In other business

Also at its recent meeting, the council unanimously approved a new incentive program aimed at encouraging business owners to beautify building facades in the East Market Street Business District.

The Georgetown Façade, Sign and Awning Improvement Grant Program offers 50/50 matching grants. The grants are a maximum of $500 per applicant and are limited to six applicants per year, for a total of $3,000. Grants are awarded on a reimbursement basis only, meaning the work must be completed before an application can be made.

Town Manager Gene Dvornick said the program is a low-cost incentive that helps Georgetown’s downtown businesses.

“It’s a way for the town to say, ‘Hey, we’re here and we’re feeling some of the pain with you when it comes to [paying for] signage,’” Dvornick said.

The grant money comes out of the town’s realty transfer tax funds, which are collected when properties change hands in Georgetown. Dvornick stressed the new program will not affect the town’s operating budget.

“This is a shot in the arm for people who may not otherwise consider doing something with their properties,” said Councilwoman Linda Dennis. “I think it’s an exciting chapter in the development of downtown.”