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City Council discusses shared wall repair grants

T-R photo by Noah Rohlfing Mayor Joel Greer asks for public comment during Monday night’s City Council meeting.

Marshalltown’s City Council approved a city application to the Iowa Economic Development Authority for a $500,000 grant with the intention of providing shared wall repair grants to downtown buildings impacted by the 2018 tornado.

The approval was given the during a city council meeting Monday night. The measure passed with only one dissenting vote.

The grant would directly help businesses such as Odds and Ends/Wax Xtatic Records, which recently closed until further notice because of damage. The building next to it was demolished due to damage, leaving the shared wall open and exposed to the elements — a main reason the store closed. Repair costs were too expensive for owner John Blabaum, among many other businesses pinpointed by the city as possible recipients of funding.

City Administrator Jessica Kinser said the city was recommended to apply for the loan by the Iowa Economic Development Authority because of the damage.

Council member Susan Cahill said it would be a boost to the community, and particularly to a ravaged downtown area.

Contributed photo The two buildings on the corner of North Center Street and West State Street have been demolished exposing the wall on the south.

“Some of these people maybe didn’t have the damage themselves, but the sheer wall becomes their problem right now,” Cahill said. “If it’s another way we can help rebuild our downtown, I’m all for it.”

Kinser explained the reason behind the grant applications.

“We do have a number of projects that are not started and would likely be eligible under this new incentive if we were to move forward,” Kinser said. “As the Iowa code states, as a city of our size it’s a five-year loan with a 2 percent interest rate.”

Provided the grants are approved, council member Martin said it would have a big impact on an important part of the Marshalltown community. Kinser said the new incentive would make many projects more finishable, and the city would apply for the loan to be forgiven after two years at the point of application. Kinser expressed confidence that the application for loan forgiveness would be accepted.

However she added would have a decision to make if the forgiveness wasn’t granted from the state and the Nuisance/Abandoned Property Remediation Program.

Kinser said there would still be a public hearing on the loan before the city could accept and allocate any money like any debt proceedings. The council would hear a response from the state before any hearing took place, she said.

“This wouldn’t be the last you would hear of it if we move forward,” Kinser said.

Council member Alan Hoop expressed concern about the lack of a concrete plan for divvying up the loan, but Kinser said it would be discussed more when the funding was made available.

In the public discussion of the resolution, city resident Mark Eaton asked the council why insurance companies weren’t footing the bill for the repairs of shared wall buildings. He stated support if it was a forgivable loan but still expressed concern about the impact it could have on the taxpayer if the loan is not forgivable.

Council member Bill Martin shared Hoop’s concern about the direction, but he followed up by stating support for the city’s application to the state.

“But it is a virtually no-risk application to find out the details in advance,” Martin said. “And then we can proceed as the body sees fit.”

Mayor Joel Greer was in favor of the project. He encouraged the council to keep progress of restoration going.

“At this time we need to start figuring out how to make the town look better,” Greer said.

Contact Noah Rohlfing at 641-753-6611 or nrohlfing@timesrepublican.com.

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