Lamar Redevelopment Authority Discussing New Funding Guidelines

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The Urban Renewal Authority is four years old.  The Tax Increment Funding levied on capital improvements within the Authority District generates about $100,000 a year.  The Authority has voiced some concerns about the quality and types of investments on improvements the grants have funded.  The Lamar City Council, sitting as the Redevelopment Authority Board, met December 8th to consider what type of investments should be funded in the future.  The Board wants to prioritize the spending to ensure the best possible results for economic improvement within the District.

Sewer Work Funded by Redevelopment Authority

Sewer Work Funded by Redevelopment Authority

City Administrator, John Sutherland, felt that more benefit to the downtown community at large, might come from spending the funds on municipal assets such as the new parking lot off East Beech Street.  “We’ve heard a lot of positive comments on that project, including the lighting improvements and new parking spaces,” he told the board.  He said the concerns have been over such areas as interior remodeling, which may not be a substantive change to the real property.  He asked, “Should be become involved with financing the painting of the interior of a building, how about window treatments?  Where do we draw the line?  One other requirement Sutherland discussed was a requirement for giving the board a business’s financial situation.

Funded by Redevelopment Authority

Funded by Redevelopment Authority

The board discussed several issues, including business loans for improvements which were not taxable.   Lamar Mayor, Roger Stagner, expressed a concern on physical alterations which may not be permanent, stating that the guidelines right now are pretty loose.  “We help somebody and they do a remodel.  The next guy comes in there and remodels in a different way.  My concern is that we want to fund something that will be substantial.  We may be wasting funds when a business is in operation for only six months and what was a knick-knack store gets taken by a hot dog stand, so the wall we paid for six months earlier is taken down.  The money used for the first set of alterations doesn’t last,” he explained.  Stagner and several other board members including Bev Haggard and Oscar Riley, thought it would make more sense to fund improvements for facades, primary exterior walls, floors, roofs and code enforcement standards and not fund cosmetic improvements which are apt to change more frequently.  Stagner suggested that the investments be made that will remain worthwhile to the next business that occupies the building.

Paving Underway on Beech Street Parking Area

Paving Underway on Beech Street Parking Area

Kirk Crespin asked if the board should require a larger percentage of investment into the business from an owner, “They may have more of an incentive to make the operation succeed if they have more skin in the game instead of a limited investment themselves,” he commented.  Crespin also suggested developing a structure of term loans versus a 90% grant to fund a venture.

The board will explore the development of more defined guidelines in the coming year, on what areas of business improvements the Authority will or will not fund.  One other idea would be to provide any future business requests with a list of those improvement areas the Authority Board will fund.  Basically, the consensus of thought appears to be funding should be made available for more long-lasting improvements which would not necessarily be altered during a future ownership change.

Sutherland also told the Board the new District boundaries have been laid out following a valuation study by a firm hired by the City.  “We got the lines of the District laid out agreeably between the parties.  They added several properties that had been missing from the URA District,” he stated.  Sutherland said neither the Board, nor the Assessor had any idea which properties were in or out of the District.  “Now we have that all resolved with a map that’s agreeable between us and the Assessor.  We’ve made progress as a result of this,” Sutherland concluded.

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: BusinesscommunityEconomyEmploymentFeaturedLamarProwers CountyTransportationUtilities


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