Salem will apply for funds for housing rehabilitation program
By BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
SALEM — City leaders are hoping to acquire some funding for a owner-occupied housing rehabilitation program.
The Salem City Council first began discussing the program last spring and a survey was recently completed that showed 68 percent of responding households were below the low- and moderate-income level.
Council members hosted a public hearing Wednesday night during their regular council meeting on the grant application. No comments were given at the hearing and the council unanimously approved submitting the grant.
Dan Eberhardt of the Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission (SEIRPC) said he hopes the grant will provide funds for eight projects.
“We are going to apply for $283,000 in funds,” Eberhardt said, “that would cover about eight homes.”
Grant money is from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and administered on the state level by the Iowa Economic Development. Applicants must meet certain income level to be eligible for program benefits. For example, a family of one may not make more than $33,000 annually and a family of four cannot earn more than $47,000, Eberhardt said.
Grant funds go to rehabilitation projects such as electrical and plumbing upgrades, windows, siding and roofs, Eberhardt pointed out. The maximum award per project is $24,999.
Both Eberhardt and rural Salem resident Dave Helman, who spearheaded the survey required in the grant application, were pleased with the 84 percent grant return rate.
“Eighty-four percent is a tremendous response,” Eberhardt noted.
“The response rate was outstanding,” Helman added. “That is a credit to the interest shown by citizens.”
Helman said the rehabilitation project has merit and benefits. “When a community undertakes a project that rejuvenates housing for citizens, the project can serve as a catalyst for other projects,” he explained. “When a community takes steps to support people in houses, it can lead to an upward spiraling effect on economic development. As they say, no pain, no gain. I would encourage the community to do this because it is a good program.”
Survey results will stand for three years and can be used in the event Salem applies for a community development block grant (CDBG) for another project.
Deadline for the housing rehabilitation grant application is Dec. 15.
In other matters, the council passed the second of three readings needed to adopt a new utility fee structure. Utility fees have not been increased since 1996, council members said.
Basically, the proposed fees increase water, sewer and garbage rates by two dollars monthly. Water will increase from $18 to $20 monthly; sewer goes from $12 to $14 monthly; and garbage $14 to $16 per month. Entities using over 3,000 gallons of water per month will be assessed a charge of $4.50 per gallon of water used over 3,000 gallons. The fee formerly was $4 per gallon. The water and sewer reconnection fee also was increased by $30.
Council members will host the final reading and possibly adopt the ordinance at their December meeting.
Repairs to the city well are more costly than anticipated, the council learned. Thus far, repairs to the city’s backup well, drilled in 1959, have run $43,990. Tom Engelken of Northway Well & Pump Co. told the council that once the project is completed, the cost will be $66,825.
A new liner is being installed in the well to prevent limestone from caving into the well. “It is one of the most unique wells I’ve seen,” Engelken said, “and when the project is finished, you will probably have 75-80 percent efficiency.”
The city awarded a five-year city sanitation contract to Sedcore Inc. of Keosauqua. Bids were received last month and Sedcore’s asking of $114,840 was by far the lowest of the four bids received. Waste Management of Fairfield was nest at $128,600. The bids ranged upwards to $134,628.
Despite the variance in bids, the council chose to table the awarding for a month so they could do more research on the low bidder.
The council meets again in regular session Tuesday, Dec. 3, at 7 p.m. in the Community Building.