By CHUCK VANDENBERG – EDITOR
FORT MADISON – The City of Fort Madison is looking at stepping in as a state pass-through entity on funding to finish up three Main Street projects including the Cattermole Library, Sears Building and Lee County Bank building for upper story housing rehabilitation.
The project, which was initially started and partially funded to the Frantz Group out of Cedar Rapids, has gone belly up even in the light of the original contractors indicating previously that they were willing to put up private funds to at least finish the Cattermole portion of the project.
City Manager David Varley said more than $1.3M was paid up front to the Frantz group to start the project, he said about 70% of the Cattermole is done and that’s the closest project to completion.
At Tuesday’s City Council meeting the city voted 6-0 to send a letter to the Iowa Economic Development Authority indicating the city’s interest in being the “Responsible Entity” for distribution of funds if another option is put on the table to get the work completed.
“Dubuque County was serving as the pass through for the funds and since the project has gone belly up they are not willing to serve any more in that role,” Varley said. This letter simply states we are willing to serve that role, but without that they aren’t going to waste their time looking for proposals.. Obviously if we were to receive the funds we would be more careful in how we disperse the money, not release so much of the funds up front…maybe 10% here and there, depending on the stages of construction or completion. That’s what our role would be.”
Varley said this letter simply states the city is willing to consider being the pass-through body, but without it the project will probably die. If the paperwork comes to the city, Varley said it will come back to the city council for approval.
“I think if we don’t do this, the project probably won’t have a chance of going forward.”
Councilman Mark Lair questioned whether the city would have greater control in what projects are completed and on what timeline.
“If we take this over are we going to be able to dictate what buildings get done first?” Lair said.
Varley indicated the state’s priority would be to finish up the Cattermole project because it is closest to completion and that completion would free up the additional funds for the remaining projects.
He also indicated the IEDA has kept the city informed along with the Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission and the city’s been informed that there are three possible options that will be presented to the state and, if they are approved, it will involve the city.
The funds used to pay for the project are part of a federal flood recovery loan program years ago for housing for people who were displaced because of the floods.
In other action.
• The council voted, 6-0 to purchase a new Police vehicle at a cost of $26,400 from Stew Hansen Fleet Sales of Urbandale.
• Passed a resolution, 6-0 to increase cemetery rates effective Jan. 1, 2017, per Varley the average increase would be $100 per hour for cover/uncover in city owned cemeteries and again in 2018 the rates would be increased an additional $5/hour.