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Paynesville Press - July 14, 2004

City residents to be surveyed for state grant

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

Homeowners in a selected area of the city will soon be asked to complete and return a survey. Results from the survey will be used to help the city of Paynesville receive a grant - up to a half million dollars - for refurbishing residential and business properties.

This week, the city will send surveys to more than 200 homeowners along Highway 23 and on nearby streets, including parts of Augusta Avenue, Belmont Street, Burr Street, Central Avenue, Belmont Street, Hudson Street, Garfield Street, Lake Avenue, Lyndall Avenue, Maple Street, Mill Street, Minnesota Street, Oak Park Avenue, Pine Street, Pomeroy Street, South Street, Sunrise Avenue, and Wendell Street, said city administrator Steve Helget. Before the city can even apply for the grant, most of the surveys need to be returned by early August, he added.

The survey asks residents what kind of improvements they would like to see in the community at large as well as what improvements they might make to their own homes. It includes information about the respondent's household size, income ranges, and what repairs or upgrades their houses need.

If awarded, grant money from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development could be used for projects such as improving energy efficiency, upgrading heating and cooling systems, making structural improvements, upgrading wiring, making homes or businesses handicap accessible, or demolishing old buildings, according to Helget. Grant money - which could total between $300,00 and $500,000 - would go directly to the city for distribution.

The city will target rehab money to single-family homes in the same area where surveys were sent, along Highway 23 and some neighboring streets. Commercial grants would be given only to downtown businesses, said Helget.

The majority of funds distributed to homeowners will likely be in the form of grants and will not have to be repaid if the homeowner occupies the home for a period of time, probably for five years. Homeowners with high incomes may be asked to repay some of their awards. Business grants will probably require matching funds from the business owner, said Helget.

This is a wonderful opportunity for the city, according to Helget. Since grants will be awarded based on need, it's impossible to know how much grant money could be awarded until the city determines how many homes and businesses need work and how much money will be needed to rehabilitate them.

Helget specuated that 15 to 20 homes and businesses could receive an average of $20,000 each for upgrades, which would total $400,000 in grants for the city.

But nothing will happen unless most of the surveys are returned.

To help ensure a good return, the city will send reminders to any recipients that haven't responded within a week or so. Later, someone from the city will go door-to-door to gather surveys that weren't returned and to provide assistance in filling them out.

Eventually, businesses will be asked to complete surveys too, but these have not been planned yet, said Helget.

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