Houston County, Minnesota has two communities that receive small town grants

HOUSTON COUNTY, Minnesota (WXOW) – Two communities in Houston County have just received a portion of $ 19 million in grants for small town projects. Residents of the Town of Hokah receive $ 721,625 and the Town of La Crescent receives $ 552,000 for its owners.

Minnesota has set aside special funding to improve Main Street businesses and private homes in small communities. Small Town Development Program (SCDP) grants are made available by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) each year for 30 different cities.

The town of Hokah felt ready for a facelift, and community advocates CEDA and Semcac provided SCDP specialists to help survey residents and draft grant applications.

Community Economic Development Associates (CEDA) specialist Allison Wagner found Hokah to be an excellent candidate for the grant.

“Fortunately, there was a lot of interest here from rental property owners, commercial property owners and landlords,” Wagner said. “So we knew we had a solid subsidy.”

Hokah Mayor Lee Tippery explains how residents were able to submit their project ideas.

“Each person received a letter in the mail and had to fill it out,” said Mayor Tippery. “Explain what they thought of their property, what kind of shape it was, what they were going to spend the money on. To improve it… the roof, the windows, the doors, the siding, stuff like that.

Twenty-nine of the requested rehabilitation projects were funded. These projects included 13 houses, 2 rental properties, 7 commercial buildings and 7 mixed-use buildings, which is a big problem for Hokah.

“We have a lot of traffic going through Hokah,” added Mayor Tippery. “A lot of them just go through there. I wish I could have something that would make them say ‘Hey, I’m going to stop and watch this!’ “

The grant application process can be complicated, which is why SCDP specialists can be great advocates for communities like Hokah.

“Semcac and CEDA teamed up for the grant,” Wagner said. “Semcac wrote the owner portion of the grant and CEDA wrote the commercial and rental portion of the grant. And then, when it comes to dispersing the subsidy, Semcac will disperse the owner part and CEDA will disperse the commercial and rental part. “

Scattering of grant money occurs after projects have undergone an environmental review. This was followed by calls for tenders for contractors for each project. After final approval, cities pay the contractor’s construction costs in advance and submit invoices to CEDA or Semcac for reimbursement.

And these grants come in the form of 7-year deferred loans at 0% interest. A full refund is required if a property is sold within the first two years, after which 20% is returned each year until they are fully returned at the end of the 7 year term.

The Town of La Crescent approached the Community Action Agency, Semcac, to help draft a grant application for its homeowners, which turned out to be a great idea in the eyes of Mayor Mike Poellinger. Especially after the city received two previous grants for other uses.

“We get over $ 500,000 from this money,” Poellinger said. “And it’s the biggest we’ve ever received.”

The Mayor of La Crescent was happy to direct funds to other areas of the Apple capital of Minnesota saying, “Well, for a community the size of La Crescent, this is a great opportunity. Because we had never had these funds available to us before. “

Funding for the project is expected to begin in spring 2022. Residents and grant recipients have two years to complete their projects.

For more information on how your community can apply for a grant like this. Contact any of the SCDP organizations via these links: https://www.semcac.org/ & https://www.cedausa.com/

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