SIREPA to apply for Miller-Meeks' 2024 funding

Grant would help renovate and expand Lee County Career Center


LEE COUNTY – The Southeast Iowa Regional and Economic Port Authority is stepping up again for the Lee County Career Center.
SIREPA will be applying for a $2.2 million appropriation from Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks’ office as part of the annual Congressional Budget Appropriation.
The funding will be used to help remodel the Career Center in Montrose as well as adding a 34,000 square foot parking facility, south entrance including a vestibule and windows, and then about $670,000 in new equipment for industrial tech and health care training.
The interior remodel is estimated at $894,000, while the exterior work carries a $363,000 price tag. Engineering and administration is projected at $190,000 with a 4% administration fee.
“We’ve interfaced with Rep. Miller-Meeks and her office has given us positive feedback about an application like this for build out and equipment,” said Mike Norris, SIREPA’s administrator.
“We did ask about acquisition and our current situation just does not fit what they are looking for from an administrative rules position through the appropriations committee.
The application is due by March 15.
The grant is the same grant that was awarded to Lee County this year for the new Health Department/EMS Ambulance facility. The county received a fully-funded $2.1 million for that project. Fort Madison also was awarded a grant this year to help with costs of storm sewer separation projects under EPA mandates. The total cost of those separation mandates are born by the local governments.
The county is also applying for a project this year to resurface 15th Street north of Fort Madison that runs from Rodeo Park north.
Miller-Meeks typically carries about 15 projects from the 1st Congressional District to Washington D.C. Grant applicants fill out an online grant form through the Congresswoman’s website. Those applications are reviewed and selected for final interviews with Miller-Meeks and her staff to be narrowed down to the final 15.
“So if all this done, basically we’ll have a center that is ready to rock and roll,” Norris said.
Lee County Economic Development Group President Dennis Fraise said the grant will allow the career center to become a regional educational and workforce support system.
The CAC recently lost a partnership with Central Lee and now is working with Keokuk, Fort Madison, and SCC. Fraise said the center can only work with public school systems.
Central Lee had hesitation joining the effort several years ago, but finally came on board. Superintendent Dr. Andy Crozier notified the center earlier this year that they would be pulling from the partnership.
"They do a lot of great things out there and it's a good school, it's just not anything they are interested in at this time," Fraise said.
Fraise said there is another $1 million grant out there specifically for career centers like this one, but it requires the schools to commit to 125 students total or there must be four public schools in the partnership.
“We pivoted a little and the conversations we're having with (current schools) are 'what are you doing right now that you’re doing really well, but you don’t have the capacity to do?',” Fraise said.
“What’s next? What can we do out here that requires more expensive equipment? You could act as a feeder system for this. So you’ve already got programs you have a strong interest in and we’re not trying to push a rock up a hill.”
Fraise said the curriculum at the center is a high-school based curriculum system that leads to advanced training certificates through SCC or a direct pipeline into area industries.
“I know this is the right plan at this point,” Fraise said.
A 501c3 corporation has been formed to run the center. Fraise said the IRS designation is in the works for the board so the LCEDG isn’t running the center, the non-profit board would.
The rest of the facility is being used as an incubator for PV Pallet, a company that builds pallets for the solar energy field.
SIREPA Board President Mike Hickey said the center is a “shining” example of cooperation countywide.
“This is extremely important to keep this moving forward for a lot of reasons.”

Lee County Economic Development Group, Southeast Iowa Regional and Economic Port Authority, career center, Mike Norris, grant application, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Iowa, news, pen City Current,


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