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Schools, EDA work on career, tech ed

NEW ULM — New Ulm Public School is working with local and regional partners to bring a career and technical education (CTE) center to New Ulm.

Superintendent Jeff Bertrang attended the Economic Development Authority meeting Tuesday to seek support on joint grant application.

The purpose of the center is to retain and add to the skills of New Ulm’s workforce. Students in area high schools and adults will have the ability to learn about skilled trades in the New Ulm area and spend time earning credentials or certification in particular career fields.

The first step of this project is to obtain funding through a Federal Economic Development Administration (FEDA) grant. This grant does not exceed $10,000 and if approved requires a matching grant.

The application came before the New Ulm Economic Development board. City Manager Chris Dalton said the city contributing to the grant would make this application more competitive.

Dalton said this plan fits into the EDA’s mission to be more involved with the workforce. The CTE would help students looking for a different career path than college. It would, in turn, help New Ulm fill gaps in the local workforce.

Superintendent Jeff Bertrang said if this grant is awarded, the school could begin working on a curriculum and work with an architect for the center. Best-case scenario, the CTE Center would be open for students in two years.

“I would have loved it two years ago, but it’s probably going to be the fall of 2021 or winter 2021,” Bertrang said.

The board unanimously approved the joint application.

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The Small Business Incentive Grant Program received two applications, which were approved both, in the amount of $10,000. Three other applications were received and are currently awaiting approval.

Housing Coordinator Heather Bregel said the funding for the grant was $50,000 and is nearly depleted.

Board member Charlie Schmitz asked if this fund would be replenished at the start of 2020.

City Manager Chris Dalton said the board could choose to put money back into the fund, but nothing had been decided. The plan is to discuss continuing to fund the grant program during the January EDA meeting.

Board member Daniel Braam said he had heard nothing but positive comments about the program.

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The board considered awarding a tuckpointing repair project for the Broadway Haus. Plans and specifications for this project were approved in February. Bids were solicited from five vendors and two were received.

APX Construction submitted the low base bid at $117,636. City staff recommended adding alternative bids, including washing the building for $12,533 and applying a brick sealer to the entire building. The combined cost is $161,271.

The project was estimated at $100,000. The EDA has $194,170.49 in Capital Fund grants from 2018 and 2019, but this project would deplete most of the funds.

The board was uncertain if additional capital funds were needed for other projects. Additional grant funding could be available in 2020.

Bregel said in 2018 and 2019 her department received $95,000 in capital funding, which was high. The anticipation is the funding will be lower in 2020 and was contingent on Congress passing a budget. Public Housing does have $500,000 in reserves to fall back on for emergency repairs.

The board ultimately decided to approve the tuckpoint bid of $161,271.

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