City applies for Community Development Block Grant funding

August 31, 2018

Money being stretched thin locally is an unfortunate reality for many Nebraska towns and Columbus is no exception.

This is why state and federal grant money is so vital. It allows for communities to benefit from alternative revenue streams that aren’t taxpayer dependent, City Administrator Tara Vasicek said.

With the Columbus City Council recently approving a resolution permitting application for a Community Development Block Grant, the hope is that Columbus will once again benefit from dollars provided through the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. The grant, written by Mandy Gear of the Northeast Nebraska Economic Development District in Norfolk, requests $516,000 in state money to be matched by $215,000 in local funds.

The $731,000 total, referred to as 2018 Comprehensive Revitalization Phase II, includes the following costs: $53,750 for sanitary sewer improvements along 48 Avenue from 11th Street to Howard Boulevard; $376,250 for purchase/rehabilitation/reselling of four single-unit family units; $35,000 for general administration; $10,000 for construction management; $6,000 for lead-based paint risk assessment/testing; and $35,000 for housing management, according to information released by the city.

Permitting grant passage, work would be completed on housing in the general area of the southwest corner of Columbus in low to moderate-income neighborhoods.

“It allows us to do more infrastructure projects, and usually every block grant we’ve gotten through the comprehensive development grant we’ve put toward housing in these neighborhoods,” Vasicek said. “ … Maybe a house is in poor condition or needs some updating, and it might not happen without these funds. It’s about revitalizing neighborhoods and keeping neighborhoods with moderate housing in good condition.”

Mayor Jim Bulkley said it can take approximately four to six months to learn whether funds are being distributed to the city. Prior to this application process, the City of Columbus received $26,400 in September 2016 from the State allowing completion of a study identifying key areas that Community Development Block Grant money could benefit and address.

“We don’t like them anymore than anyone else does, but to get the money you have to have a study,” Bulkley said. “And it doesn’t matter if one (grant) was similar a year or so ago, it has be updated and very specific.”

Although it’s impossible to definitively know what the outcome of any grant application will be, Bulkley said he feels optimistic because of Columbus’ prior success stories. Success, he said, stems from having open lines of communications with numerous groups and nonprofits, like Columbus-based NeighborWorks Northeast Nebraska.

“We’ve been fortunate with the people we’ve been able to work with,” the mayor said. “We have great relationships with NeighborWorks, Northeast Nebraska (Economic Development District) … Those are great people you can partner with and I think they appreciate the efforts that we have put forth. It’s a collaborative effort, everyone is really working together.”

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at Sam.Pimper@lee.net.

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