Perhaps the most interesting part of the Beloit City Council meeting Tuesday night came during the work session agenda as a discussion only item. Doug McKinney, Executive Director of the North Central Kansas Planning Commission, presented information explaining how the City of Beloit can receive a Community Development Block Grant to rehabilitate a downtown area commercial building.
It is hoped a strategic investment of grant funds in a key building would prevent the spread of blighted conditions to nearby structures. It would encourage other property owners to make improvement to their building thus starting to reverse the cycle of blight, deferred maintenance and disinvestments and restore it back into a viable asset to the community. McKinney said this is likely a one-time grant-funding program for 2013 although it is hoped it would be repeated in 2014.
The grant funds would cover 75 percent of the funding with a minimum match requirement of 25 percent of project cost. Matching funds must be firmly committed by the owner of the building. The maximum amount of funds that can be applied for is $250,000. This is the only program available that is designed specifically to help small communities get grant funds. The grant money would be focused on improvements to the outside of the building such as the façade, roof, broken windows, foundation, electrical service etc. The owner's match could be used for either interior or exterior improvement. Not many states have this program so Kansas is lucky to be one that does.
"The core of our employees at NCKPC are Beloit residents and we thought of about five or six business buildings in this city that could qualify for this grant," McKinney said. The qualifying building has the following characteristics: The applicant must be a unit of the local government and the City Council must designate the structure or the area to be blighted as per Kansas Statutes and with legal counsel guidance. Blighted area implies moderate to severe deterioration in need of repair.
The building can either have an existing business already located there that wants to upgrade or expand or the owner needs to have a business situated the building within three to six months after the structure is finished. A public hearing must take place 20 days before the application deadline and an architect-based cost estimate must be available at the time of the hearing.
McKinney said one problem is that the initial deadline to have the grant application in to the Department of Commerce is February 1, 2013. This gives the council about two months to get this application filled out and sent in. The council will only have a few official meetings during that time frame. Although the final grant round deadline is August 1, 2013, McKinney feels there will be less applicants applying for the first round since less people will know about it.
Council members agreed this would be a great opportunity to get one downtown business rejuvenated at a very small cost to the owner. Mayor Naasz instructed City Administrator Glenn Rodden and City Attorney Katie Cheney to start this procedure as soon as possible. They hope to get conversation and ideas about this circulating about town in the near future. McKinney suggested the council contact owners of the structures they feel qualify and discuss it with them personally.
Any business owner in the downtown area that thinks they have a structure that would qualify to apply for this Block Grant Program should contact Administrator Rodden, Doug McKinney or Heather Hartman, Community Development Director. They hope to have some information to bring back to the January 8 council meeting.
During the regular business agenda the council passed two ordinances. The first was Ordinance No. 2121 dealt with changing the zoning classification from A-3 (Agricultural) to FI Factory/Industrial for the City of Beloit and Crop Production Services on the parcel of land just south of 424 E. Elliott Street. This comes before the council after approval from the Beloit Planning Commission on a 4-0 vote. At that time Mayor Naasz and Councilman Rick Brown left the room due to conflict of interest. Council President Matt Otte took over the meeting. After discussion the ordinance passed 7 to 0.
Ordinance No. 2122 dealt with changing the zoning classification from M-P (Mobile Home Park) to R-2 (Residential One & Two Family Dwellings) on the property located on Walnut Street for Brenon and Jamie Odle. This came before the council after a 4 to 0 vote of approval from the Beloit Planning Commission. It was approved by a vote of 8 to 0.
Under formal actions the council voted to remove the North Mill Street project from the table and then discussed sending the prepared letter to the property owners by a vote of 8 to 0. After that they discussed sending the letter to the property owners. City Attorney Cheney said the letter sends a concrete answer and puts the ball in their court. If any money is paid to the property owners this leaves the city open for lawsuits from the individual owners insurance companies. She has already received letters from two of these companies. A lot of different factors would come into play if this went to court, Cheney said. Councilman Otte thought the money should be paid to the homeowners to settle the matter. Others thought the motion should stand as written. The vote was split with four votes for this action and four against. Mayor Naasz voted to break the tie. His yes vote made it 5 to 4 so the letters will be sent to the homeowners.
The second formal action dealt with the sale of the parcel of land designated in Ordinance 2121 located at 424 E. Elliott Street to Crop Production Services (CPS). Once again Mayor Naasz and Councilman Brown left the room due to conflict of interest. The council accepted the contract with CPS to purchase the 10 acres of real estate south of the current CPS building for a sum of $50,000 by a vote of 7 to 0.
The council discussed the contract between the City of Beloit and the Kansas Department of Transportation. KDOT has agreed to allow the City of Beloit to combine two grants into one project. The city engineer believes that combining two small projects will result in more competitive bids on the KLINK Resurfacing Project agreement, which will connect two links of highway K-14 through the city. The council voted 8-0 to approve the contract.
Items of interest given by Administrator Rodden in his report included:
Mike Blass has broken ground for the first new home on the North Campus. He will be visiting with all employees about the Early Retirement Incentive Policy in the near future. The staff has been working on the wage and salary study and will make a proposal at the first council meeting in December. The staff has received one bid so far on the A WOS Internet Project in the amount of $3,150.
Mild fall weather has allowed the city crews to continue work on the street at the Solomon Valley Business Park. The goal is to complete this street yet this year. Parts for the catalytic converters are arriving for the power plant cooling tower project. Mueller Systems and city workers continue to replace water and electric meters with the automated meter project. The riverbank stabilization project in Chautauqua Park was finished this week so the park is now open except for the walk across bridge that is closed due to the Isle of Lights display in the park that opens this Wednesday night. The next council meeting will be December 11, 2012.
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