More money now available for building improvements in East Overland business district
SCOTTSBLUFF — Property owners in the East Overland business district have more opportunity to make improvements to their businesses.
On a 3-2 vote, members of the Scottsbluff City Council approved an additional $100,000 in grants for improvements along East Overland during its meeting Tuesday.
Qualified property owners may apply for a maximum $10,000 grant with a minimum of $500. City grant funds must be matched dollar for dollar by the property owner and the city is accepting grant applications through Thursday, Feb. 28.
The first round of funding, $150,000 from the city’s general fund, was distributed in 2017-18 with 15 property owners participating.
The program is administered through the city’s Community Redevelopment Authority (CRA) as part of the East Overland Steering Committee organized in 2017.
“The first round went exceptionally well,” said CRA Chairman Jim Trumbull. “We had more applications than what money we had to award. That was the main reason the city decided to go ahead with another round of funding.”
Trumbull said the city’s investment was about $153,000. With matching funds from property owners, the impact was well over $1.5 million in total investment.
Inspection of required receipts also showed most of the funding was spent locally, supporting other local businesses and generating more local sales taxes.
“We’ve had very positive feedback from property owners,” Trumbull said. “Many others want to take part in the program, so I’m confident we’ll also fill up this time. Those people have a lot of pride in their property and are willing to take on that kind of investment.”
The appearance of many buildings showed the results from the first round of grants. The Pedroza family put a new attractive façade on their well-known El Molcajete Restaurant, which had remained unchanged for years.
JD Koncaba, owner of JD’s Auto Body Shop, added a new face on his building that was last updated in 1966.
With upgrades to heating systems and the addition of energy efficient windows, both businesses were able to cut their utility costs.
Starr Lehl, Scottsbluff’s economic development director, said the city’s portion of the grant needs to be used for exterior improvements. The owner’s matching funds can be used for anything else, such as electrical or air conditioning and heating upgrades.
“The CRA will review the applications after the deadline,” Lehl said. “We’ve already had about nine people express an interest. The projects that are chosen will be the ones we think will make the biggest impact on the area.”
Not everyone was convinced at Tuesday’s council meeting. Member Scott Shaver voted in opposition to a second round of financial assistance for property owners to revitalize their building exteriors. He said the council had spent a lot of time at the meeting reviewing outside contracts for where cuts could be made.
“We’re down on our budget from where we’re supposed to be,” Shaver said. “This $100,000 program was budgeted, so that’s one of the places we could have cut.”
Shaver said those dollars could be better spent than focusing on a small number of property owners in one specific area of town.
“If we wanted to spend that money on economic improvement, we could give $20 to every residential customer to spend in Scottsbluff,” he said. “People could determine for themselves how they wanted to spend the money.”
He said the city had already distributed revitalization grants for East Overland and maybe it would be good to look in a different direction or maybe not spend the money at all.
Lehl said the East Overland revitalization was the result of a corridor study in 2017 that revealed strong support and need for a grant program of that type.
The application, along with guidelines, is available by calling Scottsbluff city offices or going online to www.scottsbluff.org.