The City of Neligh is now one step closer in what could be more than a $500,000 improvement plan for downtown.
Economic Development Director Greg Ptacek said surveys from community members are coming in and a committee has been formed to assist with the project, which is expected to be funded primarily by a grant.
“The community support so far, just with the surveys, has been outstanding,” Ptacek said. “We’re incredibly excited for the City to have the opportunity to infuse over $500,000 in downtown Neligh and really take our downtown from good to great.”
Nine individuals will serve on the Downtown Revitalization Committee and make recommendations to the City Council. They represent the City Council, Neligh Economic Development Board of Directors, Neligh Chamber of Commerce and the business community.
The Downtown Revitalization Committee is made up of the following:
City Council: Stephanie Wanek
Economic Development: Terry Jensen, Al Stelling
Chamber of Commerce: Jeri Anderson, James Zielinski
Business Community: Melissa Smith, Carrie Pitzer, Kevin Hild, Lynne Bickelmeier
Ptacek told the City Council during Tuesday’s meeting that 66 surveys had been filled out so far. He said Northeast Nebraska Economic Development was very impressed with not only the number so far, but that so many are supportive.
“Normally when you look at surveys, you start to get down on yourself and the community,” Ptacek said “These surveys said while we need to do things to downtown Neligh, they’re very positive. Many said thank you for moving in right direction and that this will do wonders for the business community. To have that much support in the process before you get going into the project, it's very humbling.”
The Downtown Revitalization Committee will begin meeting the week of March 23 to score applications from engineering firms. The week of April 6, they will interview the top two candidates and then make a recommendation to the City Council, who will approve a contract on April 14 - contingent upon receiving the grant.
Ptacek said the application for the grant is due at the end of May. Grants will be awarded in July.
“Once a grant is received, we would start having town hall meetings for business owners and the community to help develop a plan of action. We’d also use the surveys and interview business owners to develop the direction,” he said. “All of that would go to the Downtown Revitalization Committee to submit to the City Council for approval and then to HUD for grant approval."
About $1 million is available, so three grants are expected to be given. Ptacek said Neligh is hoping to receive $30,000 for planning expenses and $350,000 for the project. The city and/or business community must contribute a 25 percent match, which could cover various projects, including building facade improvements by business owners.
The grant application has 1,000 points possible. Neligh will automatically receive 100 points - 75 as a Leadership Community (Neligh is just one of four in the state) and 25 for being certified as as Community Redevelopment Authority (75 communities in Nebraska have this distinction).
Should Neligh receive the grant, it would have to be spent in two years. The project would start the summer of 2016 and finish in 2017.