County mulls $1 million in community projects

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New Beginnings, New View Industries would benefit

Warren Bluhm,

The New Beginnings Retail Shop at 230 Van Buren St. in Oconto Falls is considered too small and in an inconspicuous location, county officials say. Buying an existing building in a more visible spot is one of the projects Oconto County is considering under changes to the state and federal Community Development Block Grant program. (Times Herald photo by Warren Bluhm)

Oconto County officials have unveiled three potential projects for dollars that will be available after the state-funded business revolving fund loan (RLF) program is closed, county officials said Thursday.

Administrative Coordinator Kevin Hamann reminded the County Board that the state Department of Administration is closing the revolving funds after concerns were raised by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Under a new program called CDBG-CLOSE, communities that buy out all outstanding loans may apply for up to three projects totaling the amount of their RLF Closeout Account. In Oconto County’s case, that amounts to about $1 million.

Hamann said over the last three months he’s been talking with the Oconto County Economic Development Corp., the state, and the county Finance Committee, to determine eligible projects.

The ones that made the cut:

• Purchase three vehicles for New View Industries in Gillett, which provides employment for developmentally disabled and other at-risk workers, for a total of $198,000 to $206,000.

One of the vehicles would be a delivery truck that is already in the 2019 budget because the existing 2009 box truck is in serious need of replacement, Hamann said. The others are a transit van and a 12-passenger bus to help the employees get to work.

• Buy and renovate a building to house the New Beginnings Retail Store and training center, which is currently located at 230 Van Buren St. in Oconto Falls.

“We currently pay to use that facility, it’s off the beaten path, it’s not a good location for a retail store, so we talked about possibly buying an existing building, renovating it, adding on to it, relocating it to a much more (visible) location for the public,” Hamann said.

The estimated cost would be $375,000 to $400,000.

• Acquire up to five properties near the Oconto County Courthouse that may be classified as “slum or blight” and therefore eligible for redevelopment, ranging from $175,000 to $450,000 each.

A fourth project would purchase transportation buses for the county Commission on Aging, in case additional money is available or the other projects aren’t approved, Hamann said.

Once the county applies it has two years to use the money, so officials need to move relatively fast, he said.

“I don’t want to leave a million dollars sitting there and we don’t get it back for some purpose, but we have to use it for these type of purposes,” Hamann said.

He plans to work with OCEDC to prepare the applications and submit them as soon as possible.