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City to seek housing rehabilitation grant

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Council discusses feasibility of hosting RAGBRAI 2010

After the required Public Hearing, Cherokee's City Council Tuesday night approved a resolution to submit an application for an Iowa Housing Fund Grant available to local governments to provide for owner-occupied housing rehabilitation for low and moderate income individuals and families in the City of Cherokee.

The nature of the Grant, through the Iowa Department of Economic Development, is to provide housing rehabilitation assistance in the form of forgivable loans to qualified homeowners living in Cherokee.

The City has targeted an estimated 10 homes, with total project costs approximately $390,000. Of that total, $370,000 in Iowa Housing Fund monies will be requested in the application, with the City required to pay $20,000 ($2,000 for each home).

The project anticipates 10 homes to be rehabilitated with a maximum of $24,999 per home for hard costs of rehabilitation, and $15,000 general administration. Another $8,001 will be requested per home for lead hazard reduction and abatement.

The funds would be provided through forgivable loans via an application process. The City's Grant application must be submitted no later than Nov. 10, 2009, and will be available for public inspection at City Hall.

"Cherokee has a need for additional affordable housing due to recent expansion of Tyson Deli, Hy-Vee Distribution Center, and other Cherokee businesses," said City Administrator Don Eikmeier.

Eikmeier explained that 45-percent of the homes in Cherokee were built before 1940 and 20-percent more before 1959. Those homes have been targeted by the City and are classified as low to moderate income.

In other business, the Council received a request from Cherokee Area Economic Development Corporation Director Mark Buschkamp for a letter of support for Cherokee serving as host City for the 2010 RAGBRAI (Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Around Iowa). Most recently, Cherokee was first overnight host City in 1998 and 2002.

The Council expressed concern that the City could not, in any way, take a financial risk to host RAGBRAI. The Council and Eikmeier cited its bare-bones budget and critical financial times all local governments are facing and will be facing into the future.

Dr. James Johansen and Ron Oman, representing the local Little Sioux Spokes Folks bike club, advised the Council of the economic impact and positive public exposure an overnight City hosting RAGBRAI receives. They also spoke of their wonderful experiences as veteran RAGBRAI participants, and that Cherokee is one of the favorite overnight stays for RAGBRAI organizers and riders due to past excellence in hosting the event that brings an estimated 25,000 visitors to town.

As in the past, an overnight City must form a steering committee of volunteers that organizes and manages the event, and then form various other committees to organize and marshal such matters as food vendors, entertainment, beer garden (major revenue producer to help cover expenses), volunteers, shuttle drivers, entertainment, traffic control, clean-up, etc.

The official RAGBRAI route will not be revealed until Feb. 1, 2010. The Council voted unanimously to issue the letter of support for Buschkamp, who was not at Tuesday's meeting.

The Council also agreed to publish an application for a vacant seat on the Board of Adjustment, and approved proceeding with condemnation procedures of dilapidated structures at 331 E. Cedar St., 335 E. Cedar St., 220 W. Locust St., and 301 S. 6th St.

Each of those structures have been vacant for several years and the property owners have ignored the City requests to remedy the situation. City crews will be able to demolish three of the four structures. One is a two-story structure which would have to be done by a contractor, according to Eikmeier.



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