HRA takes grant ;br; applications to council

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 21, 1999

In the words of Kermit Mahan, Austin’s Housing and Redevelopment Association has taken a serious look at the East Side neighborhoods.

Tuesday, September 21, 1999

In the words of Kermit Mahan, Austin’s Housing and Redevelopment Association has taken a serious look at the East Side neighborhoods.

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Based on that look, the HRA’s director came to the city council Monday night seeking approval for a community development block grant application.

"There are a number of homes in our existing housing stock which are dilapidated and failing – which is normal, every city has that," Mahan said.

The HRA and the planning commission have identified 20 homes which should be taken down and the sites developed with new homes, Mahan said, on a worst-first basis.

"Four of these sites are tax forfiet sites, and we hope to pick them up rather cheaply," Mahan said. "Three of them are owner occupied, and 10 have renters."

The HRA is budgeting the maximum available to get the units they want – $93,000 each. Mahan stressed that he doesn’t expect to pay close to that, as most of the units should fetch $78-83,000 each. The total budget for the plan is $2.6 million dollars.

The HRA has a revolving fund, with which Mahan expects to buy, then sell the homes, refilling that fund.

However, the HRA still needed the city’s permission to apply for a state block grant on that.

The HRA is also looking at another area of redevelopment, for which they will need another, different grant from the state.

The area in question is the old railroad yard at the end of 4th Ave. NE, which is a 14-acre site, which has a 1/4-acre area that is a known pollution site.

"That’s where they would refuel," Mahan explained.

There is a business interested in moving into that site, if the city will clean it up – which goes beyond cleaning the pollution site alone. The city needs to take out the concrete at the desired site and get the property down to a rough grade for development. In order to do so, the city needs to apply for a Brownfield and Community Assistance grant through the Department of Trade and Economic Development. To get that grant, the city must have an approved remediation plan "to attack the known pollution site" from the Minnesota Pollution Control department. Mahan has a remediation plan.

In response to the motion to approve these applications, 3rd ward councilman Dick Lang said, "It’s probably one of the happiest days of my life; the railroad site is being looked at, the 3rd ward is being looked at. My friends in the 3rd ward can stand up and say things are being taken care of."

The council did pass both motions unanimously.

In other matters, the council approved putting up decorative streetlights in three areas of downtown. The lights would go on 4th Ave. NE, from 9th to 10th Streets, on 10th St. NE from 2nd Ave. to 4th Ave. NE, and on 1st St. NE from Norwest Bank to 5th Place.

The council needed to decide not only whether to go ahead with the lights in those locations, but also which of two options to pursue – one in which round-based lights would be set on existing square platforms, or whether new round platforms would be built instead. The first option would cost $38,000, the second, $53,000. The city would pay 50 percent of the costs, adjacent property owners, the other half.

"We have had some comments about round lights on square bases," city engineer Jon Erichson admitted. The city has, in the past, put the round-based lights on those platforms, where the bases typically overlap the platform by several inches on each side.

When councilmember-at-large Dick Chaffee initially moved to approve the first option, Lang expressed disbelief in the feasibility of putting the lights on the platforms already there, until reminded several already had been. He stressed that it wasn’t an attractive solution, and that if the thing was to be done, it should be done right. After a few moments of discussion and a look at a photograph which showed the round-based lights on a square base, the council approved the second, more expensive option.

In other business, the Austin City Council

– passed the HRA tax levy for 2000, which is separate from the city’s own levy.

– approved the appointment of Jeff Ettinger to the Library Board.

– approved the appointment of Gabe Garcia to the Human Rights Commission.

- approved sign additions to the sign in place at Austin Auto Truck Plaza.

– approved year 1999 budget adjustments

– approved a raise and extension of benefits for the city administrator