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Brainerd to use COVID relief funds for revitalization grants

The city designated $80,000 of American Rescue Plan Act money to fund matching grants for a downtown revitalization grant program.

Downtown Brainerd
Downtown Brainerd in June 2021.
Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — The Brainerd City Council designated $80,000 of its American Rescue Plan Act funds to be used as matching funds for Main Street Revitalization Program grants.

The grant program, administered by the Department of Employment and Economic Development, awarded $4.5 million to the Initiative Foundation in Little Falls to fund development projects in downtown areas and select corridors in Brainerd, Cold Spring, Little Falls, Long Prairie, Pine River and St. Cloud.

Brainerd’s allocation is about $765,000, available for projects aimed at housing, child care, small business support and landscaping in the River to Rail corridor, which includes the area between the Mississippi River and the Northern Pacific Center, and from Washington Street to Oak Street.

The grants are 30% matching grants, which City Administrator Jennifer Bergman previously explained as essentially a 2-to-1 match, meaning for every $1 of grant, the applicant would need $2 in matching funds, which cannot come from state or federal sources.

While the relief funds came from the federal government, the city intends to use them under the revenue loss provision allowed for allotments of less than $10 million. Those funds can be spent on government services.

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A subcommittee of city officials and community members formed to develop applications for the grants and review them once submitted. The Economic Development Authority will have the final say on who gets the grants.

At the first meeting June 15, subcommittee members requested the city funds for matching dollars for any applicants who might need additional assistance.

“One of the things that came out of that EDA subcommittee is that there may be a lot of small businesses that are applying for, maybe a facade grant, maybe an awning — something that isn’t a lot of money, and the small businesses don’t have that match available,” Bergman told the City Council’s Personnel and Finance Committee Monday, June 20.

The Housing and Redevelopment Authority will also consider allocating $20,000 toward a matching grant program, and the EDA will create guidelines for the program at its next meeting July 7.

In other business Monday, the council:

Approved an agreement with Central Lakes College to host and operate the city’s government cable channel, which will begin broadcasting meetings in July.

Declared the Lakes Area Music Festival a community festival, allowing the organization to apply for four temporary liquor licenses for events throughout the summer.

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Gabe Johnson is running for a third term on the Brainerd City Council against challengers Emily LeClaire and Johnathan Miller.

Approved an agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation for the bridge replacement project near the railroad on Highway 25. The agreement includes maintenance of the trails, storm sewer and access road to the city-owned gravel pit near the bridge.

Approved a variance request from Sarah Hayden Shaw for property at 521 N. Ninth St. to reduce the front yard setback from 20 feet to 12 feet for an addition near the primary structure.

Approved a variance request from Youth Investment Foundation for property at 704 Norwood St. to reduce the side yard setback from 20 feet to 1 foot, and the rear yard setback from 20 feet to 2 feet for a proposed accessory structure.

Approved the first reading of the restructured zoning code. The council will host a public hearing on the issue at its next meeting in July.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa .

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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