Palmer, supervisors rehash IFA loan discussions

The city of Jefferson has not abandoned the proposed Water Tower rental housing project, city administrator Mike Palmer told the county board of supervisors Monday morning.

Palmer visits monthly with the supervisors, updating them on city projects. The Nov. 9 update was the first since the supervisors balked at signing an application for a $1 million Iowa Finance Authority loan the city council had also refused to sign. The 1 percent loan would have provided financing for developer Duane Jensen of JCorp to continue with the project.

“There was a little controversy with the housing,” Palmer said. “I wanted to come here, as far as what’s been in the press, to say it’s good to know that we’re all working together on it.”

“Unfortunately we all got put on short notice. Sometimes you just have to say ‘no’ to some things, and we’ll move on and figure out how we can make it work,” Palmer said.

As they discussed the decisions of the past two weeks, supervisor Guy Richardson said he was puzzled that no one from the city had made a counter proposal to JCorp’s suggestion that the $1 million in state funds be parceled out as $625,000 in grant money and $375,000 as a loan. He continued, “I’m not sure that we ought to have taxpayer money involved in granting. I realize that gets done all the time these days, but I’m not sure it’s a good plan of action to have taxpayer money involved in granting funds to individuals if it can be avoided. There might be circumstances where it’s warranted, but by and large, private investment in development is what’s called for.

“Now, that said, I don’t know that that would preclude organizations like GCDC, if they wanted to throw some grant funds at it, to go ahead and do it,” Richardson said. “I think under all the circumstances you guys [the Jefferson city council] did what you had to do. I think everybody understands it. Our problem with it was just the timing.”

He said the supervisors had a problem with the short notice, but even with longer to talk about it, the board would not likely have agreed not knowing where funds to repay the loan would come from. “Like you said, we’ll work together and see if we can’t figure out some way, whether we can get Duane (Jensen) lined up with somebody that is willing to invest in it and make it happen, or whether there are other ways to make it happen with GCDC. We can explore all those avenues,” Richardson said.

“We’ll move on,” Palmer said. “We’ll have a joint meeting if you’re wanting to put that together and people want to go to it, that’s great.”

Palmer also said that the city is in the process of hiring Region XII to do a full housing study. That was a suggestion of a Piper Jaffray financial consultant who recommended to the council that the city not apply for the IFA loan without first considering and prioritizing all needs.

Palmer made brief mention of the work on the former Linda’s Fashions on E. Lincoln Way and on 205 N. Wilson. He said that hiring an architect for the CDBG building façade restoration grant and approving final payments on the sewer extension to Wild Rose Casino were on the city council’s Nov. 10 agenda. He added that the golf course had a good October and is on “bonus miles” with mild weather in early November.

Palmer generally attends the supervisors’ meetings alone. On Monday, mayor Craig Berry and council members Gary Von Ahsen and Larry Teeples were with him. They didn’t speak at the meeting and left with Palmer following his update.

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