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EDA approves funds for Hermann hillside, amphitheater

NEW ULM — The New Ulm Economic Development Authority approved funding for the Hermann hillside project and the German Park amphitheater upgrade.

The EDA voted to fund $100,000 for the Hermann hillside and $150,000 for the German Park amphitheater.

In August, the city approved moving forward with these two projects. Neither project was fully funded.

The preliminary estimate for the Hermann hillside is $462,000. This will include the construction of three new retaining walls and landscaping between the walls with wildflowers. Park and Recreation budgeted $200,000 for the project.

The construction cost for the amphitheater is $876,000. Pledges and donations for the project are $323,425, with an additional $135,000 from Park and Recreation budget.

City Manager Chris Dalton brought these projects before the EDA because of both economic impact development in New Ulm and the impact on tourism.

“Hermann Park is a tourist destination that pulls visitors from all over the world,” he said. “If we’re trying to improve the park and make it more of a destination — a premier park in the city — the project needs to get done.”

The German Park amphitheater is the last item on the park’s master plan and has been in the works for 10 years. Dalton said the time was right to complete it because construction costs will only increase as donors could pull funding if the city doesn’t move forward now.

“The request for $150,000 is a step in the right direction,” Dalton said. The Park and Recreation Department will still need to fundraise to cover remaining costs.

EDA board member Daniel Braam asked if there were additional funding sources for the Hermann wall since the $100,000 does not cover all the expenses.

Dalton said the city will use its fund balance and potentially some tax levies to cover the remaining balance of the wall.

Board member Susan Fix asked if these projects would move forward regardless of the EDA funding.

Dalton confirmed these would move forward regardless of EDA funding.

The board unanimously agreed to provide EDA funds to both projects.

The Hermann wall and German Park amphitheater are both scheduled to be completed in August 2020. The Hermann wall will be constructed in conjunction with the parking lot improvements at Hermann Heights.

Housing Vouchers

The EDA passed a resolution adopting the 2020 Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program. The EDA administers 124 tenant-based Housing Choice Vouchers. Vouchers increase affordable housing choices for low-income families.

Funding for the program is through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The EDA receives payments and administrative fee disbursements every month.

Housing Coordinator Heather Bregel said Congress has not yet passed a budget for 2020, meaning funding levels are unknown. The budget presented to the EDA board was based on the previous calendar year.

Bregel said this program has received inadequate funding. The program has to utilize fewer vouchers than available due to insufficient funds. An average of 87 vouchers were funded to date in 2019.

The board also approved the Fair Market Rents (FMR) and Payment Standards. The FMRs are gross rent estimates that include rent and tenant-paid utilities. The new FMRs set by the federal government will increase. A single-bedroom increased from $558 to $573; a two-bedroom increased from $700 to $714; a three-bedroom increased from $877 to $890, and a four-bedroom increased from $946 to $967. The board approved setting the voucher payment standard at 100 percent of the FMRs for Brown County.

Flat Rents for Public Housing were kept in line with FMRs for the area to encourage participants.

EDA 2020 Budget, Goals

The EDA budget for 2020 was adopted by the board. The EDA is anticipating a budgeted deficit for 2020 due to continued assessments on the remaining nine lots in Milford Heights subdivision. The EDA will pay these assessments until the lots are sold.

Bregel said the EDA has enough reserve to cover the deficit for this year.

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