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City of Brooklyn announces RIF low interest loan program

By LOREN RICKARD, Mayor, City of Brooklyn

The City of Brooklyn is nearly finished with the central business district project started in the summer of 2008. Streets and sidewalks have been rebuilt on Front Street and the business end of Jackson Street. Replacement or repair of the underlying water service, storm sewer and sanitary sewer system was also completed.

Water and sanitary connections to all buildings were replaced. New street lights were installed and the downtown flag display was reconfigured into groups centered on street side benches.

This project will be paid for over a 10-year period with funds generated by the City’s Tax Increment Finance (TIF) program. No additional property tax levy is involved.

The new appearance downtown looks great and is appreciated by the community’s residents, but the city council sees reason for concern. Our community has been fortunate, until the current recession, in having very few empty storefronts downtown.

There are currently five empty storefronts on Front and Jackson streets. Most of our buildings have some age on them which increases maintenance costs. Several are showing serious structural problems visible on the outside walls.

The community is not well-served to have new sidewalks and streets if the adjacent business locations are allowed to deteriorate. Investment is needed and the city council appreciates that, in a town our size, these older buildings are not appraised very high, which may hinder the owner’s ability to secure loans for repair.

The city council feels that the city needs to be proactive in addressing this problem, thus the council approved an ordinance establishing a Redevelopment Incentive Fund (RIF) at the July 20, 2009, meeting.

A number of Iowa towns have established RIF programs for the purpose of maintaining the viability of their business districts. Many are a partnership of city, economic development groups, Chamber of Commerce, etc., which write rules for operation, pool funds and establish boards to oversee the distribution of funds to qualified applicants in need of help in maintaining their buildings.

These awards may be in the form of low interest loans, forgivable loans or outright grants.

The City of Brooklyn’s RIF program will be managed by the city council. It will be funded with money from the TIF program. Applicants must be located within the City of Brooklyn’s TIF district, which encompasses nearly all of our downtown. The council will determine the amount available in each fiscal year budget for RIF. $10,000 is budgeted for RIF in FY 09-10.

Eligible projects are as follows:

1. Exterior building work such as roof, windows, tuckpointing, painting, and repair of masonry.

2. Asbestos removal is the only interior work eligible.

3. No interior work or remodeling, no heating or cooling, no sidewalk, no outside decorations such as flower boxes or planters.

4. All projects must be for buildings used exclusively for commercial or retail business.

The RIF program will award one-half the cost of a project up to $10,000 in the form of a forgivable loan provided all requirements are met.

Property owners shall apply for RIF funds by May 30 for the coming fiscal year. Applications may be picked up at the Brooklyn City Hall.

The project is expected to be done between July 1 to June 30 of that FY. Applications for FY 09-10 may be submitted now.

The city council will review all eligible applicants and award funds based on the project’s urgency and benefit to the city. All applications will have a binding, signed and written contract with a contractor outlining the work to be done, cost of materials and labor.

The applicant will receive the award when the following requirements are met:

1. Bring the project to a prompt and successful completion by June 30 of the FY awarded.

2. Make prompt and complete payment to the contractor who does the work.

3. Be active in the promotion of the Brooklyn business community. The city council regrets that more funds are not available for this program but we must begin somewhere to address this very serious problem. Commitment on the part of the city and the business community can make progress over time.

UPDATED July 28, 2009 1:05 PM

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