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BP is back to drawing board on downtown

BELLE PLAINE – The second try for Community Attractions and Tourism (CAT) money was denied this week by the Vision Iowa Board for the Belle Plaine streetscape plan.

City Administrator Bill Daily said Monday the application for Main Street-related work did not score enough points.

The city does have a Community Development Block Grant of $500,000, plus two other grants for a total of $850,000. The city has pledged $2 million to the project. They were hoping for $513,000 from the CAT program.

Daily received word Monday that “the application is dead.” He was hoping more participation from the Main Street businesses would help with the grant.

He said they would have to go back to the drawing board and trim something out of the project, or find another way to financially make up for the shortfall, possibly through special assessment over a period of years.  One council member observed, “That’s a pretty good chunk to make up.”

At the public meeting last week, Daily said the idea was presented to the businesses and he was surprised it wasn’t “jumped all over.” He said, “There were some that were receptive to it.”

Daily said some feel that improving their businesses will increase their property value, and in turn increase their taxes. Mayor James Daily agreed that some want their property values to go down so they can pay fewer taxes.

Bill Daily observed, “You want high value when they go to sell, but when September and March come, they don’t want it too high.”

As for cutbacks, Daily suggested historic lighting, signage and the “art” components of the project to attract people to come to town, which would have been funded by the CAT grant. He stressed it was not just “pretty bricks” but beautification that people would come to see.

“But if you don’t have the money to do it, you just don’t,” said Daily. He said the businesses and city need to decide if these elements, that would have been provided by the CAT grant, are important enough to keep, or if they need to be eliminated.

Council member Marv DeRycke said the city needs to get moving on the project. Daily said he hopes for bid-letting in January. DeRycke suggested another meeting with the businesses on which direction to go.

“Do you want the bare minimum, or do you want it to look nice?” was what City Attorney Jennifer Zahradnik saw as the choice facing the businesses. They also need to decide if assessment will be by storefront or by the foot.

Daily said he’d get some numbers together and set up another public meeting. He said he had a lot of good input at the public meeting last week. For now, the city will be making some new decisions with the help of public meetings.

In his report during the regular meeting, he said the aquatic center project is still on time. It was painted over the weekend. “I’m no contractor, but it looks to me like there’s a lot to be done,” Daily observed. He explained there was a run of bad weather and it is on a tight schedule.

He added that the Main Street Iowa annual visit is May 26 at 2:30 p.m. at the library.

In other business:

- An outdoor service permit was approved for The Oasis.

- Mardene Garling was named to the Community Center Board to fill a term ending June 30, 2010.

- A payment of $75,339.71 was approved to Denver Underground for the 2009 sanitary and storm sewer project.

- A bid from DRC of $21,120 was approved, with additional options of $5,133 for additional insulation and $2,932 for a metal camp for the main sewer plant roof.

- A five-year lease was approved with Iowa Health Physicians for the medical center. The lease is for $1,100 per month through March 31, 2012, then $1,250 per month for April 1, 2012 to March 31, 2015.

- An extension agreement was approved with Interstate Power and Light for $12,865.61, for service to the aquatic center.

- A letter was read from the Iowa Department of Transportation regarding resurfacing of Highway 21 in Belle Plaine. Work was to begin May 18.

- At a work session prior to the meeting, the council discussed a request for no parking on the east side of Third Ave. between 10th and 11th Streets. They also discussed the future of “Meals on Wheels” in Belle Plaine, and how it relates to the community center.

UPDATED May 18, 2010 9:47 AM

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