(Beaver Dam) There appears to be some confusion on a committee in Beaver Dam that is tasked with awarding hundreds of thousands of dollars in downtown revitalization grants. The Community Development Committee has the final vote on the business improvement grants, using money from Tax Increment Finance District #6, a blight elimination TIF encompassing most of the downtown.
In 2013, the city set stringent parameters for distributing the funds, which among other things required improvements to be visible to the public and capped matching grants at $5000. In 2019, the city eliminated the guidelines in favor of a general approach with each grant considered individually, replacing the once-stringent guidelines with a form that lists general qualifying criteria and no upper limit on awards.
The CDC on Wednesday approved $13-thousand dollars in matching grants for BK Henry Properties, but the committee spent the bulk of the time trying to understand the guidelines on their own form. The grant form says, “funds shall be used specific to façade or exterior building improvements which will enhance the visual appearance and marketability.”
After much debate, BK Henry was able to use money they spent on roof repairs as the match for their grant.
“Where I struggle, it seems like we approach this a little bit differently each time,” committee member Rich Zieman said, “So from my perspective, I’ve never heard of the roof dollar amount being used.”
“Well part of that Rich is that I don’t know if you’ve been on [CDC] the whole time,” Mayor Becky Glewen responded, “Because there have been multiple buildings.”
Committee member Tracy Propst indicated that a recent grant awarded to Stooges used roof repair costs as a match, but the committee’s Kevin Carnine later indicated that his recollection was different.
The committee decided that their next meeting would include an agenda item to clarify the guidelines.
“It is a little bit confusing and contradictory,” committee member Pam Korth said, “We should update the form absolutely and I think that we should have a better–defined understanding of what we’re approving beforehand so that we’re not doing this, each time it seems a little bit different to me.”
Glewen told the CDC that there are no clear guidance from the state on how to use TIF funds. She added that the CDC will probably be dissolved soon and its limited functions consolidated into the Landmark Commission.
“So that is what internally we are looking at right now is how we can combine and make that into one committee so that we’re not having the issues that we’re having in the past,” Glewen said.
Committee member Ric Fiegel quipped, “Are you saying we’re going to be fired?” to which Glewen replied with a laugh and said, “Well…”
“Well, I’d still like to see [guidelines] as an agenda item,” Zieman noted.
The subject of dissolving the committee has been discussed on-and-off for years, dating back to Mayor Tom Kennedy’s administration.
There was also confusion at this week’s meeting about the amount of money that has been given out with two businesses listed as receiving more money than was awarded, totaling $2800. The mayor told the committee she would look into the matter.
The balance in the TIF fund at the beginning of 2019 was $620-thousand dollars and around half been committed to or spent on projects as of this month, leaving another approximately $310-thousand dollars in unspent funds.