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PACC takes a stab at state grant funds

The Perham Area Community Center has thrown its small hat into a large ring of competitors vying for grant dollars.

The PACC has submitted a grant application to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, in hopes of receiving about $630,000 from the state's new Business Development Through Capital Projects matching grant program.

Funding for this program came from a $47.5 million allotment from the last legislative session's bonding bill.

Perham's requested amount may seem like a drop in the bucket compared to the size of the fund as a whole; however, state officials announced Tuesday that 90 other applicants across the state are also attempting to dip into the fund - some seeking amounts that would dry out the tap before most cities even had a chance.

These include St. Paul, which wants $27 million for a new regional ballpark, and Minneapolis, which is asking for $14 million toward a light-rail transit project. Also competing is Wadena, which appears to be a likely candidate for funds for a wellness center.

When put together, the applicants are seeking $288 million from that $47.5 million pot.

Due to "the large number of applicants, the seemingly predestined funding for some of the projects, and the geographical proximity to Wadena (DEED will want to spread the funding around the state, so if Wadena is funded, we may lose some luster since we are relatively close to them)...the odds are slim that the city would receive funding," wrote Perham City Manager Kelcey Klemm in a letter presented to the city council at a meeting on Monday.

Still, he added that Kevin Nelson and John Turgeon, of the PACC, along with Perham's Economic Development Director, Chuck Johnson, decided it would be worthwhile to submit an application, "in case our relatively small project (in regard to the amount requested) could be the recipient of some remaining dollars after the larger projects take the majority of the funding."

It's also possible that the grant program will be funded again in future years, and this will give Perham some experience in submitting an application - a 'leg up' should the city ever want to apply again.

If the PACC were to be awarded the grant, it would need to be matched on a 1:1 ratio. The other roughly $630,000 would come from the city, existing capital funds at the PACC, fundraising efforts and/or borrowing.

The money would be used to pay for capital improvements to the building, including roof re-insulation and flooring replacements at the field house, a new ceiling over the pool, an expansion of the cardio and fitness rooms, a new wresting room and relocation of the aerobics area, as well as upgrades to the locker rooms.

Many of these projects will need to be done in the next five years whether the PACC wins a grant or not; this grant money would alleviate the need for entirely local funding.

"The premise of our application is that the community center has always been locally funded and maintained," said Johnson at Monday's meeting. "We've never had any help from the feds, the state, or any outside agencies. This would give them an opportunity to get involved in this highly successful organization."

According to Johnson, foot traffic at the PACC amounts to about 230,000 people a year.

"I sure think it's a good idea to go for it and see what happens," said councilor James Johnson of applying for the grant.

Mayor Tim Meehl agreed: "It's worth a try."

Grant awards will be announced in September at the earliest.