Members of the Urban Enterprise Association on Tuesday put their list of new policies and procedures into practice as they awarded funding to a downtown business owner in need of a new roof.
Scott Kirchoff, a local insurance agent who co-owns his building at 305 Busseron St., went before the UEA, as its members met at City Hall, 201 Vigo St., with a request for financial help in putting on a new roof and replacing the brick parapet wall around it.
Kirchoff said he purchased the building back in 2002; a new tar roof was put on three years later.
“And over the years, it has survived,” he said with a shrug of his shoulders. “But the last few years we’ve had to patch it every time it rains. It’s become a losing battle.
“Every time we patch a hole, water comes in from somewhere else, and we’re starting to see damage inside the building.”
Replacing the brick parapet wall, Kirchoff said, must be done before the new roof can be put on, and the work combined, UEA members read from those estimates, is expected to cost just over $40,000.
Kirchoff came armed with two bids for the roof and another two for the masonry work, which is consistent with the UEA’s new rules.
“I just don’t want to lose the old building, not if we can save it,” Kirchoff told the UEA.
After being challenged months ago by an applicant who claimed the UEA’s funding decisions were unfair, UEA members, after much discussion, opted not to approve any hard and fast rules in terms of how it decides to award funding, such as a percentage of the total request.
Their financial situation is simply too fluid, they agreed.
But in an effort to maintain some consistency Tuesday, UEA member and its legal counsel Jonathan Feavel, said in looking back over the kinds of awards the UEA has made this year, especially similar projects in scope and size, the UEA has awarded about half the total cost of the project.
“We’ve had a number of requests in the neighborhood of $20,000, and we came back at $10,000,” Feavel said.
Agreeing, UEA member Dan Osborne suggested the board consider awarding half the $40,0000 estimated cost, or $20,000; the rest of the board voted unanimously to approve his motion.
In other business, the UEA did vote to give final approval to a list of 14 new policies and procedures in terms of how it handles applicants for funding, both local businesses and homeowners within the Urban Enterprise Zone.
Among the new rules are one that mandates all property taxes be up to date and another that says applications must be submitted at least five days prior to the UEA’s meeting to be considered.
Another is that the project, to be eligible for its approved reimbursement, must be complete within a year’s time.
Applicants, too, must wait at least five years before coming back for more money on the same project — or address — and they must first have approval from the city’s Historic Review Board, if applicable, before funding is awarded.
The board also approved a rule that says if a building is sold within two years of the receipt of funds, the UEA reserves the right to seek its money back.
UEA members, too, thought seriously about meeting once a month — instead of every other month as has been the case for years — but in the end they decided to keep with tradition and meet in special session should the need arise.
Discussions of the UEA’s processes began in June after complaints were lodged against the organization by previous applicants Brett and Lara Dawson — complaints that allege the UEA favored some applicants over others and operates with a general lack of overall guidance and rules.
The couple even took their frustrations before the city council.
Council members — who appoint UEA members as does the mayor — encouraged them to consider adopting a set of rules to make things easier, both on applicants and UEA members alike.
Established in 2002, the UEA provides tax breaks to businesses located within its boundaries. The UEA, in turn, gets 24% of any savings realized by participating businesses to spend fixing up other properties within the zone, which, theoretically, increases the tax base.
The UEA’s overall mission is relatively simple: to make buildings within the Urban Enterprise Zone look nicer, thereby drawing more business and investment.