SB city council discusses homelessness, accepts $425,250 DEED rehab grantThe Silver Bay City council met Monday, Aug. 5 with councilors Gustafson, Perfetto, and Goutermont present. Mayor Joanne Johnson, City Administrator Lana Fralich and City Attorney Pete Morris were also in attendance.
By: Tammy Francois, Lake County News Chronicle
The Silver Bay City council met Monday, Aug. 5 with councilors Gustafson, Perfetto, and Goutermont present. Mayor Joanne Johnson, City Administrator Lana Fralich and City Attorney Pete Morris were also in attendance.
Mayor Johnson opened the meeting by saying she’d recently spoken to Tom Lovdahl, Chair of the Lake County Housing and Redevelopment Authority and learned that unstable housing and homelessness are an issue for many people in the area.
“I’d never thought we had homeless people here, but it’s been brought to my attention that we have a need —a great need,” she said. Citing a recent donation of land by the City of Grand Marais for the purpose of erecting a mixed-use apartment complex, Johnson asked the council to consider what the City of Silver Bay could do along those lines to address the issue.
The Grand Marais building, said AEOA Director of Housing Scott Zahorik, is expected to include units for people able who can pay the market rate for a rental. Rent from these units is expected to support the cost of providing housing to low income residents in the building. This approach makes it less likely that city budgets will be tapped to subsidize low income housing on an ongoing basis. Zahorik acknowledged that coming up with funding can be difficult for many communities, however, cities can contribute in other ways.
“We’re trying to take this in a new direction, but,” he said referring to Grand Marais’ efforts, “it started with donating the land.” Johnson commented that land is in short supply in Silver Bay, but perhaps there are possibilities that haven’t been considered.
Councilor Perfetto commented that this mixed-use model has been employed in Twin Cities area communities like Minnetonka and Wayzata , with the first floor of a building being leased to businesses.
“(The businesses) pay the way,” she said, adding that residents on the upper floors can enjoy the benefits of having restaurants, shops and other services in the building where they live. Zahorik agreed that this is especially convenient for those without transportation, another issue faced by many low income people.
Johnson said she was not asking the council to make any decisions, but she would like to continue the conversation.
“I’d like to be thinking about this, so put your thinking hats on,” she said.
Next, the council passed a motion permitting City Administrator Lana Fralich to write a letter of support for a new initiative under consideration by the Iron Range Rehabilitation and Resources Board —the Business Energy Retrofit Program, which started last year in Hibbing.This year, IRRRB commissioner Tony Sertich has recommended that the program be extended throughout IRRRB’s service area, including Silver Bay.
“A number of local business owners operate out of older buildings that are not energy efficient. This program will help them make much-needed energy improvements that will not only improve their bottom line but also make their business more competitive. In addition, the program also utilizes local contractors, vendors and bankers, which is an added benefit to the region,” said Sertich in a news release Tuesday morning.
Under the program, business owners would receive $2 in grant funding for each dollar they invest in new windows, roofing, HVAC units, lighting, doors or insulation, up to a maximum grant of $40,000. Business owners who keep their businesses operational for 10 years would not be required to repay the funds.
Several resolutions were adopted at the meeting, including the approval of a contract between the City and Midwest Athletic Construction for resurfacing the community tennis court. The cost of the project is expected to be $30,400. The second resolution adopted was to accept $425,250 worth of grant funding through the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. This funding is earmarked for rehabilitation of owner-occupied residences in the community. An additional resolution was adopted to approve an agreement between the city and the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency for the administration of the DEED grants. Under the terms of the agreement, AEOA will be responsible for determining eligibility of households, performing needs assessments on the homes under consideration, ensuring the qualifications of contractors and making sure the work gets done. In exchange, AEOA will be paid a maximum total of $51, 500. Zahorik said that he expects that his organization will be able to make improvements to approximately 18 residences, but the final number will depend upon the cost of repairs to individual project homes.
A resolution was also adopted to accept funding from the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industrial Safety for the purchase of a trench box — safety equipment designed to prevent outdoor workers from being trapped or injured by sliding rock, gravel or mud.. The cost of the box is approximately $10,000. The MDLIS funds will cover $8,000 and the city will pay for the balance out of utility and street funds.
The final resolution of the evening was to approve the designation of the city’s excavator and snow blower as surplus items. These items will then be slated for use as trade-ins on a newer excavator to be purchased from Ziegler in Duluth, said City Administrator Lana Fralich. The happy news for taxpayers is that the final cost of the newer excavator will come in at less than its budgeted amount.
On a sad note, Mayor Johnson acknowledging the absence of Councilor Marolt, whose mother passed away. She offered condolences on behalf of herself and the council.