Manchester looks to improve and preserve the history and charm of the town

Manchester has made the preservation of its almost 250 year history a top priority, and recently received a grant that will help the town achieve this goal.

The town council was notified July 10 that they were the recipients of a Civil War Heritage Trail grant in the amount of $48,300, said Town Administrator Steve Miller. The council applied for the grant earlier this year and the proposed use of the funds is the restoration of the Manchester Historic Center which currently is located in the basement of the town hall.


The council has been designing a new town hall for months and finally nailed down the final plan July 17, Miller said. When the new town hall is completed, the historic center will be moved out of the basement and will occupy the old hall. The grant money will be used for improvements to the exterior and interior, including reworking the facade of the building, landscaping and for new display cases.

"It's a safe bet the new historic center will be up and running sometime next year," Miller said.


This grant — in fact, all grants the town applies for — are part of a system designed by Diverse Management and Planning, a grant writing firm located in Union Bridge, that identifies how the town's goals relate and assesses which grants will not only allow them to achieve the immediate goals but also spur on other objectives. Jim Schumacher, founder of the company, said this system is called Causation Planning.

"The implementation of the town's key objectives will naturally spur on other ones," Schumacher said.

He said too many local governments worry about meeting each goal individually, but with his planning system, multiple goals can be achieved simultaneously, effectively reducing time, effort and cost. The problem, Schumacher said, is the complexity of federal, state and local grant policies. Schumacher said he sifts through the hundreds of grant options out there to find which grants will help meet the standards of others.

With this system in mind, the town council decided to apply for a Community Legacy Grant, a program organized by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.

Manchester's Main Street Revitalization program was completed about six years ago, Miller said, and now the town wants to focus on improving the sidewalks and side streets in the downtown area. Schumacher said he submitted the application on July 15 with a total requested amount of $165,000 which will be used for a variety of purposes, including repairing sidewalks, and when necessary, replacing it, adding cross walks to ease the flow of foot traffic, and incorporating ramps to meet ADA accessibility requirements.

"Sidewalks are a key element of any town," Schumacher said. "Usually the sidewalks are in bad shape in towns like this and they are an important safety feature."

Miller said the cost of these improvements can be quite expensive. Any change requires the town to hire an engineering firm to assess the area and design the ADA ramps, and then the town will have to hire a contractor to construct the additions.

Kevin Baynes, director of the Community Legacy Program, said the grant review process will take a bit longer than the Civil War Heritage Trail grant because it deals in far larger sums of money, which attracts more applicants. A team, which Baynes heads up, reviews each application before selecting which to recommend to the secretary of the department. Once the secretary signs off on the applicants, the local governments are made aware. The process could take as long as nine months, Baynes said.


He also said the applicants selected usually have made some progress toward achieving the proposed goals stated in the grant application. The purpose of the program, Baynes said, is to support and maintain the state's local communities because they are invaluable in sustaining the economy.

"Our mission is to revitalize our historic communities to keep our downtown areas looking new," he said.

Miller said he is hoping the town will receive the grant sometime in March of next year, but wishes he could do more sooner to help meet the needs of those in the Manchester community who are handicapped.

The main goal of this grant is to make it a little easier for the handicapped folk to get around," he said.

Schumacher said the replacement of damaged sidewalks, addition of ADA ramps and the inclusion of cross walks will not just improve safety but also make it easier to get about.

"Making these changes will encourage people to walk around town and get to know Manchester," Schumacher said.


Reach staff writer Wiley Hayes at 410-857-3315 or email him at