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Small Cities grant used for 31 projects

With partial financial support from local property owners, the Small Cities Development Grant Program has helped fund 31 residential and commercial projects in Perham in the last two years.

The $460,000 grant was given to the city of Perham in 2010 by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. Funds must be expended by Dec. 31 of this year.

The grant program helps cities and counties with funding for housing, infrastructure and commercial rehabilitation projects.

According to a letter to the Perham City Council from Economic Development Authority Assistant Mary Holzer, the grant was structured to provide funding for eight rehabilitation projects in Perham, in each of three categories: single-family residential properties, rental properties, and commercial properties.

With benefiting property owners matching their grant dollars by up to 50 percent, Perham was able to complete 10 single-family, 10 rental, and 11 commercial projects.

The grant program was the subject of a public hearing at Monday's city council meeting.

Economic Development Director Chuck Johnson told councilors that, "in all cases, leveraging occurred from the property owners." Including these matches, a total of around $700,000 was spent on the projects.

Small Cities Development Grant projects must either benefit people of low and moderate incomes, eliminate slum and blight, or fix an urgent threat to public health or safety. In addition, need impact and cost effectiveness must be documented and the general public must be involved in the application process.

Cities with fewer than 50,000 residents and counties with fewer than 200,000 residents are eligible.

In other news, the council:

-Approved the purchase of two new pickup trucks, one to be used for recycling and plowing, and the other to be used by the gas department. A 2013 GMC Sierra 3500, with an 8'2" V plow, will be paid for out of the recycle fund, at a cost of about $30,425. A 2013 Ford F-150 pickup, at about $24,300, will be paid for out of the gas fund.

-Tabled a request for diagonal parking on Third Ave. SW, adjacent to the former Title Services building, until the planning commission can review the request.

-Appointed Pastor Phil Holtan to the Housing and Redevelopment Authority Board. Councilor James Johnson said, "I personally know low-income housing is one of his (Holtan's) priorities. I think he would be a hard worker."

-Heard a report from Tom McSparron of West Central Initiative. Perham is a partner with WCI, which supports and facilitates community growth, healthy schools, job growth and more. McSparron said WCI made $2.4 million in loans and grants last year.