The Pope County Housing and Redevelopment Authority with Economic Development power (HRA/EDA) learned more about the potential building of workforce housing in Lowry.
The board discussed two acres of land in Lowry where the Lowry EDA has interest of building workforce housing. The site is west of Highway 114 contiguous to the ball field and the city park.
Executive Director Dick Dreher said rent for the new housing units would have to stay near $800 per month to be feasible. The eight units owned by the Lowry EDA are currently rented for $600 per month, said Dreher, and have long waiting lists. However, Dreher said, “There is no way we can hit that [$600] mark with new construction costs.”
Board Member Allan Rutter said in Cyrus they are facing a similar financial situation with a water project in town. “Our engineers put out bids and they came back really high,” Rutter said. “A lot of the contractors around here have gone to North Dakota to work because it is so lucrative for them. The ones down here are charging us North Dakota prices.”
Dreher stated that Stephanie Howe of studio e architects is working on a workforce housing project in Elbow Lake. He said he will take notes about what it cost to build there, because it will be similar to what would be built in Lowry. The HRA/EDA can then use those financial figures to make a determination if it is feasible to build. Dreher suggested having a joint meeting with the Lowry EDA to define what roles each group wants to play in the possible project.
It was stated that the units would not be age restricted and that right now it is looking like two-bedroom units would be built.
“There appears to be a need for more workforce housing,” Dreher said.
Board chair Cody Rogahn asked how many employees were currently at Lowry Manufacturing.
Dreher said he guessed about 40 people.
Rutter said, “Most employees there are probably pretty established; it’s the future ones you have to look at.”
Villard workforce housing
It was discussed at previous HRA/EDA meetings that Massmann Automations in Villard has indicated a need for more workforce housing. “If Massmann continues to expand, they would like housing options for their employees,” Dreher said.
After a meeting with Villard Mayor Al Cooley and others, Dreher reported that they determined a site for potential workforce housing at the corner of Commercial Ave. and Central St. in Villard.
Dreher suggested that if the HRA/EDA does end up building in Villard that they start at four units and do the building in stages.
Broadband in Pope County
At a previous meeting the board discussed the need for broadband fiber optic cables for internet in unserved areas of the county.
Dreher said he will meet with representatives from the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) in August and discuss the area’s broadband needs in more detail. He also informed the board that in addition to the state broadband program grant of 20 million dollars for greater Minnesota, there is also a federal program with a maximum grant of $20 million out of a total $100 million for the entire country.
“The only problem with the federal money is that we have to put in an application by October 13,” said Dreher. “We are trying to see what have to do to apply.”
The state grant funding has to have a local match of 1:1, so the service provider would have to match the grant amount.
“This isn’t anything we [HRA/EDA] are going to spend a lot of money on. We are trying to provide leadership and be a catalyst as much as we can be,” Dreher said.
In other action the board:
• Approved selling a lot at 610 Hagenson Street in Starbuck on contract for deed to Peter Grossman. Grossman, who lives in the house next door to the lot, plans to extend his yard, it was stated. Dreher will come back with a contract for deed at an upcoming meeting for approval.
• Mentioned that the first unit of Bay Meadows Phase II housing near Starbuck Airport should be completed and ready for residents to move in by Aug. 1.
• Heard from Rutter who told the board that a couple from Aiken mentioned to him they were impressed with the Starbuck Heritage Days parade. Dreher added that he had heard a lot of good comments as well, including a comment that it was the best organized small town parade.