City council approves architect for facade project

Jefferson Herald staff

The Jefferson city council Tuesday unanimously approved the hiring of The Franks Design Group, an architecture firm based in Glenwood, Iowa, to provide the planning and design if the city is selected for a Community Development Block Grant by the state.

The Block Grant Committee interviewed five architecture firms in early October before recommending FDG to the council. City Administrator Mike Palmer, who serves on the committee, said FDG is an “excellent, excellent fit for our needs.”

FDG’s experience providing design services for facade projects in Manning, Malvern, Le Mars and Sac City, along with its location, reputation and enthusiasm were cited by committee members as setting FDG apart.

An official contract has not been signed, meaning compensation has not been agreed upon.

“To me it was kind of a backward process,” Councilman Harry Ahrenholtz said. “But we will have that number here in 30 days or so.”

A CDBG is a federal grant program used to improve communities infrastructure and expand economic opportunities.

The current proposal by Jefferson Matters: Main Street, the city council and the Region XII Council of Governments includes $500,000 in grant money which must be matched by the community receiving the funds.

The money is to be used to improve building facades within the Main Street District of town. Buildings do not need to be on the Square to qualify, but must be considered part of the district in the immediate vicinity.

As of now, the city council has pledged $250,000 in matching TIF funds and expects building owners to pay for the remaining $250,000. Building owners would essentially be responsible for one-fourth of the total cost.

The final grant proposal is due in January and will be awarded or denied in the spring. If approved, construction is not expected to begin until 2017.

Ahrenholtz, who also serves on the Block Grant Committee, said the committee was solely focused on the firms’ qualifications.

“We interviewed five groups and the majority of them were very capable,” he said. “This group (FDG) came to the top. It’s a small company. The director of the company is very passionate about this.”

In other business, the council was asked to consider another CDBG project, this one for home repairs and updates.

Karla Janning, housing programs coordinator for Region XII, asked the council to continue its involvement in the Owner Occupied Housing Rehabilitation program, which has been used in Jefferson in the past.

Applicants can be awarded a maximum of $24,999 and must complete an application process.

She said 93 interested parties responded to an inquiry and two to six projects can eventually be approved based on need.

The program is set up to provide 100 percent of the cost of repairs in the form of a forgivable loan. A five-year lien will be placed on repaired homes. The lien will decrease each year the family resides in the home.

Janning said the money is not for cosmetic repairs like carpeting or a new kitchen, but for energy-efficiency updates and to remove hazardous conditions such as lead-based paint.

The council made no decision, but could match up to $2,500, along with support from local businesses. Janning said community involvement is key to the application process.

A public hearing on the issue is scheduled for the Dec. 8 city council meeting at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.

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