City authorizes application for downtown revitalization grant
The city of Breckenridge during their June 7 meeting authorized the submission of an application for a $500,000 Texas Community Development Block Grant through the Downtown Revitalization/Main Street Grant Program with the Texas Department of Agriculture. The board additionally determined an area of the city as slum and blighted to use funding from the grant, if awarded.
The city held a public hearing during their April city council meeting as a step in applying for a Texas Community Development Block Grant. According to the TDA, the Downtown Revitalization and Main Street Program seeks to provide infrastructure improvements to address conditions which contribute to deterioration in an area designated as slum or blighted in the applicant community’s downtown or main street area.
The city sent our requests for proposals March 15 to five planning firms for assistance in applying for the TxCDBG grant. The city received one response from Public Management, Inc. and approved awarding the contract for application and administration service for the grant to the company during their Monday, April 4 meeting. Vice President and Business Development Director of Public Management, Inc., Kenneth Coignet, spoke with the city council during the April meeting and this month on Tuesday, June 7 regarding the grant application.
“This is popular (as a grant), and it's statewide. You're not competing only in your region this time. (...) and here's the things that are in your favor, the people that got funded within the last six years for this particular program, they lose six points right off the top. You guys don't, because we haven't had a grant in the last six cycles for the DRP (Downtown Revitalization Program). So most of the time, what those other cities will do, they're not going to apply because they already know that they're gonna get scored down. And then it's just other factors, you know, low-to-moderate income persons, (...) household income, those kinds of things. And so we kind of can see where you're at and you're in good shape. But, can I guarantee you're gonna get it? No. (...) There's gonna be a lot of people apply,” Coignet said in the June meeting. “Last year, the Department had extra money and this is the program they dumped the extra money into. We had more funded last year than I anticipated. (That) doesn't mean that's going to happen this year.”
The city worked with the Breckenridge Economic Development Corporation to determine a project that would benefit the downtown and community. Breckenridge City Manager Erika McComis stated in the April meeting that the two entities would be meeting to see what projects they will be considering if they are awarded the grant funding.
The grant program will fund a project between $250,000-500,000 with at least 50% of the project being focused on sidewalks in the downtown area determined in the planning phase. The city determined to use the funds for the grant, if awarded, to construct sidewalks and crosswalks around Breckenridge City Hall.
“(The Downtown Revitalization Fund is) primarily for sidewalks. The grant is a min-imum of $250,000 of $500,000. They upped that from last year which was ($350,000). The match is pretty steep. It is a 15% match, however the minimum is a 3.5% match, but in order to get to the maximum points (when being scored) you need to put in 15%. Everybody that got funded last time put in the 15%,” Coignet said in the April meeting. “Also, 50% need to go to sidewalks. There are other eligible activities such as streets (and) drainage of utilities, but if you don’t do 50% of the funds towards sidewalks you are going to lose 10 points and you are going to be out. I can just flat out tell you that.”
Cities that apply for the grant are scored out of a total of 100 based on criteria such as the median household income, unemployment rate, project priority, previous funding, citizen participation. Coignet said in the April meeting the application must be submitted to the state by July 8. He stated in April Public Management, Inc. would return following the submission with two resolutions identifying the area where the work will be completed and then authorizing the matching funds and how much funding the city is requesting.
“It’s also going to be a limited area that we can work in. We’re going to kind of sketch out what that area will be. Mostly around City Hall and downtown businesses. It won’t be residential areas. It will mostly be around where the business activity is around City Hall. And we’ll develop that as we go further along and we’re hired and we help you get an engineer hired and then we’ll have a budget and we’ll have maps (...) to show you what the area is going to look like,” he said. “However, there are a combination of things you could do in addition to sidewalks. You could do sidewalks in one area and then go do some utilities in another area. As long as we make the numbers work out to where most of the money is going toward the sidewalks.”
According to the TDA, eligible activities for the TxCDBG funding are for public infrastructure improvements or activities explicitly needed to eliminate “slum and blight conditions” within the downtown or main street area. Some of the uses for the funding according to TDA are for sidewalks and lighting, water or sewer lines, road construction and rehabilitation such as curb and gutter and related drainage, natural gas lines and transformers, utilities such as natural gas and electric, high-speed internet infrastructure with prior approval from TDA. The board approved an area in downtown Breckenridge as slum and blighted for the sake of the application process.
“Usually with our other applications, the planning grant and the community development, there's three national objectives for the Department of Agriculture, the Community Development Block Grant. Most of them deal with low to moderate income persons. This, the national objective, is you're meeting conditions of slum and blight. (...) What I'm talking about in this case is all the cracked sidewalks (...) that's what we're fixing to repair. That's what we're counting as slum and blighted conditions, or some of the buildings (...) they may be a little deteriorated, things like that. Or even in the streets where there's conditions of what they call slum and blight conditions,” Coignet said.
The area determined to be a slum and blighted area was from West Walker Street to North Court Ave., North Court Ave. to West Dyer Street, West Dyer Street to North McAmis Ave. and North McAmis Ave. to West Walker Street. Proposed sidewalk, ADA ramp, curb and possible lighting improvements would be around West Elm St. and North Rose Ave.
Coignet said in the June meeting that most of the project will be used on sidewalks and fixing ramps so they are Americans with Disabilities Act compliant. He said the bidding process would not be expected for another 12- 18 months. The city would have to match a portion of funding for the project if it is awarded.
“These things, they're due July 8. We don't expect them to be awarded until late this year,” Coignet said. “Grant agreements would probably go into effect early next year. So really, your match (of $75,000) is at least another year-and-a-half away. So (...) you're not going to worry about that this fiscal year. (...) And that's going to go toward construction and or possibly engineering, depending on how the department works up the grant agreement.”