On Oct. 5, the Cassville City Council voted to pursue acquisition of Barry County's remaining Recovery Zone Bonds, which are available under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The city hopes to receive around $550,000 through the federal stimulus program.
"There is some stimulus money available to the county," said Darelyn Cooper, city finance officer. "Barry County was eligible for $1,571,000, but Monett contacted the commission and asked for $972,470 of the money, which leaves more than $500,000 available.
"A small portion of the remaining funding will be used for some smaller projects, but the majority of the funding is still available," said Cooper. "We would like to partner this money with the DREAM (Downtown Revitalization and Economic Assistance for Missouri) grant, which will be $250,000."
If the city receives the DREAM grant, which is designed to cover project planning costs, and the bond funding, it could use the money to begin improving Cassville's downtown area, including lighting and sidewalks.
"This would give us around $800,000 to begin streetscape lighting improvements or another project that would meet an objective of our master plan," said Cooper. "This could be the first visible step for the master plan."
The DREAM grant requires a 20 percent match, which would be $50,000. The city would be responsible for this portion of the project and repaying the bonds secured through the federal program.
Although the program does not stipulate a time limit for bond repayment, Cooper suggested the city plan to repay the money within 20 years. She estimated that the city's annual bond payment would be around $37,000.
"The entire streetscape improvement project would cost almost $3 million," said Eugene Dilbeck, economic development director. "That would improve lighting and sidewalks around the square and from 10th to First Street. This money would allow us to complete a nice chunk of that project."
Dilbeck reminded the council that BWR's community survey indicated that local citizens' top master planning priorities included job creation, city promotion and sidewalk improvement.
"This would allow the city to get something done that is visible," said Dilbeck. "The money is available if we act quickly. I think this would show the citizens that we heard them, and we are acting on their requests."
Cooper pointed out that it is currently difficult to borrow funds for projects. She also stated that pursuing the stimulus funds could help the city receive the DREAM grant by showing that Cassville has money available to complete a project.
The council directed Cooper and Dilbeck to request the bonds from the Barry County Commission. Cooper and Dilbeck plan to attend the next regular commission meeting on Oct. 8.
The aldermen also authorized Dilbeck to work with the commission to help establish Barry County as an Enhanced Enterprise Zone. This would allow the county to grant a tax abatement to any new or existing business that invests at least $100,000 in real estate improvements and creates at least two new jobs.
If the Enterprise Zone is created, it will be governed by a seven-member board, which would be responsible for setting all tax abatement rates. The board would be allowed to give up to a 50 percent tax abatement for up to 10 years.
"This would be a big incentive for companies to expand or locate here," said Dilbeck. "In light of the fact that we are about to conclude our master plan and will be needing funding for several areas that we need to address, this would elevate us higher on the priority lists for funding. From an economic development perspective this is one of the tools that we have to have to compete."
If other local municipalities express interest in pursuing a county-wide Enterprise Zone, the county commission will schedule a public hearing to answer questions about the program. After the public hearing, the county will be required to submit an application for the program. Approval will take around eight to 10 weeks.
If the county decides not to move forward with the process, the city could pursue the program alone and establish the Cassville city limits as an Enterprise Zone.
In other business, the Cassville City Council:
* Discussed a proposed project that would make West Street in front of the Cassville Post Office a one-way street.
* Approved a $4,056 purchase order from Northwest Oil Co., for aviation fuel.
* Discussed a sign permit fee ordinance change that would eliminate a $50 master signage plan application fee.