[Source: Bonnie Bariola, Florence Blade Reminder] – If the Arizona Natural Resources Protection Act is eventually approved by the voters of Arizona, the plan is for it to replace the Heritage Grant Fund managed by Arizona State Parks that the Legislature deleted from the Arizona Statutes in 2011.
From 1991 through 2006, Heritage Fund Grants added $2,887,181 to Pinal County’s economy. This breaks down to: Casa Grande $673,116, Coolidge $340,841, Superior $81,991, and Florence $1,791,233.
Projects made possible in Florence as a direct result of the Heritage Fund were:
• the William Clarke House which is now home to the Florence Reminder and Blade Tribune;
• Florence/Silver King Marketplace which provides space for four businesses in the downtown;
• The Historic Chapel of the Gila;
• Old Main at Florence High School;
Without the Heritage Funds having been available, the above structures would not have been saved for future generations.
Additional projects that utilized Heritage Funds were:
• Harvey/Niemeyer House now home to Options, A Crisis Pregnancy Center;
• Church of the Assumption;
• 2nd Pinal County Courthouse:
• Brunenkant Bakery Store Building;
• Popular/Mandell’s Department Store now True Value Hardware;
• Five homes in the Historic District.
In some instances, multiple grants were received over time for some of the above projects.
The following approved grants with signed contracts were canceled after the Legislature “swept” the funds to pay other bills: sponsored by the Florence Main Street Program — W.C. Smith & Co. Building rehab (the former Florence Market). Sponsored by The Florence Preservation Foundation — Cuen House & Butcher Shop located on N. Main Street; Denier/ White Apartment Building located across the street from the 2nd Pinal County Courthouse; and the Celaya/Long Sweeney Residence located on Ruggles across the street from the Police Department. If the Arizona Natural Resources Protection Act becomes law, it is possible funds can be secured through the grant program to again begin rehabilitation of these buildings.