(Beaver Dam) The Beaver Dam Common Council Monday night rejected the use of ARPA funds for downtown revitalization grants. Mayor Becky Glewen had championed a plan to use $400-thousand dollars in American Rescue Plan Act funds for façade improvements and business attraction in the downtown.
Alderman Mick Fischer was among those who voted against the resolution saying that the funds should be used for pandemic relief instead of driving up the assessed value for downtown property owners.
Mayor Becky Glewen read from the ARPA guidelines which state that a municipality can use the funds for business façade improvements.
Alderman Kevin Burnett says there is nothing wrong with helping mom and pop businesses. Burnett says if you’re against small businesses then vote against it but “we’ll know who you are.”
Alderman Ken Anderson contends that a business owner sold their property right after receiving the grant. Anderson questioned oversight saying, “It’s not about small businesses, it’s about being fair.”
Administrative Committee Chair Zack Zopp urged the council to vote in favor of the plan, noting the impact that the funds have had improving the overall look of the downtown.
Alderwoman Jaci Shelton voted against the plan saying that she wanted a better understanding of the overall plan for all the money before tying up $400-thousand dollars, which is nearly a quarter of what the city was awarded.
The final vote was six in favor, seven against and one abstention.
The Building Improvement Grant is a matching grant that awards up to $20-thousand dollars with the intention of (quote) “significantly” effecting attractiveness and marketability of the property. Qualifying improvements include restoring or replacing historical façades and replacing existing façade with more appropriate and attractive designs and materials.
The city also offers a New Downtown Business Recruitment Grant to incentivize new businesses to locate downtown and improve the property. The maximum award is $5,000. That grant has a one-page application with five additional pages of guidelines and eligibility criteria.
The grants are approved by the Downtown Redevelopment Committee, which has sole discretion over awards. The money for the grants originally came from revenue generated as part of a Tax Increment Finance District, which has since been depleted. The city has given out $600-thousand dollars in grants with the final $10-thousand dollars awarded at the Redevelopment Committee’s most recent meeting.
Guidelines with the blight elimination TIF, where the money originally came from, had required the funds to be used only in the downtown.