Development grants could help with First St. improvements

City Council
By: 
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     With the start of a new year, the City of Monticello is poised for some grant opportunities for downtown development.

     During the Jan. 4 city council meeting, the council spoke with Jones County Economic Development Director Derek Lumsden and Glass Tap owner Matt Kumley regarding the future of the former Compadres building (103 W. First St.).

     Almost a year ago (Jan. 20, 2020), the council approved submission of a Catalyst Grant, a Derelict Building Grant, and other grants to renovate the Compadres building, which is owned by the city. The council also committed $50,000 toward the project.

     To date, the DNR has covered the costs related to the Phase 1 Environmental Inspection.

     Lumsden said some progress will be seen this spring with asbestos removal and a new roof.

     He explained to the council that applying for grant funding again, this time with interest from a developer (Kumley), would look promising in terms of success.

     “The next grant can be two-fold,” proposed Lumsden. “We could tear down the back t-sector and keep the two façades, and repair the median wall. The grants could also help to renovate the front half.”

     Kumley said his interest stems from wanting to see a downtown restaurant in Monticello, something to attract people to the downtown.

     “I want to create a great draw for the downtown, something for people to look forward to,” Kumley offered.

     He said he’s already had people inside, and he’s just waiting on city approval.

     In the future, Kumley said he’d like to add low-to-moderate income housing upstairs of the building, as well as above his bar, which is adjacent to the Compadres building.

     “That sounds like a great plan,” praised Council member Dave Goedken. “We need to keep moving on this; we’ve been into this for a long time now. It’s great to get something done.”

     Mayor Brian Wolken agreed. “It’s a great step in the right direction. Working with a developer would help us score better on the (grant) applications.”

     The council approved submission of the grant applications, working alongside JCED.

     The council also authorized a CDBG Income Survey, also working with JCED, related to the city sewer plant project.

     Improvements to the sewer plant could cost close to $12 million. With the CDBG grant, it is recommended the city conduct an LMI (low-to-moderate income) survey.

     Lumsden explained while the city may not have qualified before the pandemic, he feels Monticello might be in the right place now. He said ECICOG will work with the city and seek out volunteers to help with the surveys of residents.

     “They’ll work with the city clerks on a list of eligible households,” Lumsden said. “It’ll be a random sampling, and they’ll train the volunteers to do the income survey.”

     Lumsden expected to see the survey conducted some time this spring or summer. This would allow the city to apply for the grant in the fall.

     In relation to downtown development, the council approved the transfer of the former Dollar General building and the deed (101 E. First St.) to Creative Adventure Lab, Inc.

     Up until now, under city ownership from the Welter family, the city was able to seek several grant opportunities for asbestos removal and work on the façade/entryway.

     Under Creative Adventure Lab ownership, they will cover any costs related to and fundraise for renovations of the building. The targeted opening date for the Lab would be the fall of this year.

In other city business:

   The council held a public hearing on and approved the re-zoning of property located at 122 N. Main St. from R-1 Single Family Residential to C-1 General Commercial.

     The Planning and Zoning Board also recommended the re-zoning, and received support from adjacent property owner, Richard Wolken.

     This property is located just north of the old Energy building, and will be part of future commercial development.

     The council also voted to waive the second and third readings of the zoning ordinance to expedite development.

     • The council designated The Monticello Express as the official publication for city notices.

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