Shop owners on Katherine's main street are concerned the money allocated to revitalise the CBD will be whittled away to nothing.
It has been almost two years since it was announced the council had landed a $5 million government grant to fix Katherine's tired CBD.
Design and planning fees have already begun to diminish the pool of money, and $1.5 million was siphoned off to fix the Katherine Hot Springs.
Katherine Town Council has repeatedly left questions from the Katherine Times on the start of upgrades unanswered, and it remains unclear what the money will be spent on and where.
Cleaning the dirty sidewalks, painting the shop fronts and establishing shade to create an inviting street for tourists were top priorities at the beginning, and have not changed almost 19 months later.
Warwick Newton is the assistant manager of The Top Saddlery, a business which has been on the main street since 1993. His workday often starts with hosing down footpaths, picking up rubbish, and removing graffiti in an effort to entice shoppers.
He says the council's delayed spending has been a let down, and is concerned the remaining money will be further "eaten up" in fees to consultants and administration.
"There was a lot of excitement when we first heard that money would be spent on fixing the street, it is something we really needed," he said.
"But we still have issues of graffiti, tired looking shops, empty shops, and dirty footpaths.
"I would have liked to have seen some action by now, nothing has happened, and it seems the money is being churned up in admin fees."
Mr Newton said the remaining money should be spent in the CBD on small upgrades which will provide an immediate impact.
"Spend what little we have left on basics like signs and cleaning, put up some undercover parking, create some shade," he said.
"The initial ideas to improve Katherine were great and practical, then the plan was developed into something we don't have money for.
"We need to reel it in and see some construction and action, it would hopefully boost moral and keep people from leaving Katherine."
Almost one year ago, an architecture firm contracted by the Katherine Town Council for almost $400,000 revealed their grand plan for the CBD revitalisation.
The plan counted on a truck bypass, estimated to cost $150 million, and aimed to cool the main street with the addition of native trees, grass, misting fans and shade structures.
Little has been said since the big reveal, believed to far exceed the initial $5 million, raising question on whether the money will ever be spent.
Shannon Lingard, the manager of Katherine Sports and Family Chiropractic, said she is concerned the town's potential to grow is being held back by the council's inaction.
The small business recently relocated from one side of the main street to the other and is seeing a burst in foot traffic and customers, but not all shop owners on the street can say the same.
"Katherine really needs money spent on it, we don't want tourists to be driving through and seeing nothing has changed in years," she said.
"Small businesses are what keep Katherine going, but if there is nothing to draw in customers, then there is nothing to keep Katherine alive."
She said the lack of shade on the street was a big deterrent to potential customers.
"If we could make the street enjoyable to walk down more people would shop locally.
"It is so hot, we could plant some trees and cool it down significantly. The money was allocated for the main street, let's spend it here and get people wondering up and down, looking at the shops again."
The importance of creating a vibrant, inviting and clean street was a notion held by many shop owners, and concern over the council's mishandling of money was echoed over and over.
One shop owner on the main street, who wished to remain anonymous, questioned the council's decision to build a turtle play structure at the hot springs costed at almost $400,000 when $1.5 million of the CBD fund had been siphoned off to fix the springs.
"The first thing people see when they come to Katherine is the main street. I think it is great that the hot springs and Nitmiluk are seeing upgrades, but people are far less likely to even get to those spots if their first impression of Katherine is a run-down main street," she said.
"There have been all these grand ideas, money has been taken away for other projects and it has been spent on plans that will never be used.
"We just need to scale it back and deal with the issues we can fix, which is cleaning and general maintenance.
"If we want a good tourist season we need to make the street inviting."
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