Money for aiding new start-up businesses and neighborhood associations in Eau Claire could get restored under proposals from two city councilmen.
Councilmen Andrew Werthmann and Jeremy Gragert are sponsoring amendments on Tuesday to the city’s plan for using almost $850,000 in federal grant funds coming to Eau Claire through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“Both of these tie into these concept of lifting everyone up,” Werthmann said of the proposals.
One would provide $3,600 to a business start-up assistance program run by Western Dairyland Community Action Agency that primarily helps women, minorities, disabled people and low-income individuals through education and counseling so they can start their own businesses.
“That’s a longstanding program that has been very effective at helping people start small businesses,” Gragert said.
Last year the program received $5,800 through the city’s budget for its Community Development Block Grant allocation from the federal government, but city staff proposed dropping it to zero.
With a limited amount of federal money available to the city, Werthmann and Gragert propose cobbling together the $3,600 for the business program by taking about 4% of what was bound for 10 other initiatives run by community agencies. That would mean $200 to $400 reductions each to local domestic abuse and homeless shelters, the Chippewa Valley Free Clinic, The Community Table and the Eau Claire Area Hmong Mutual Assistance Association.
The duo’s second amendment to the proposed CDBG budget would provide $200 each to the East Side Hill, Historic Randall Park, North Riverfront and Sundet neighborhood associations.
“Neighborhoods run on a shoestring budget and they can do a lot with that money through getting out word on their meetings,” Werthmann said.
The $800 would come from the administrative planning portion of the CDBG budget, which a city memo states is already $1,000 below last year’s level.
Cutting funding for the start-up business program and neighborhood associations was done while drafting this year’s CDBG budget as the city put an emphasis on addressing homelessness and affordable housing — two issues the council has become increasingly interested in.
Werthmann and Gragert both back that push, but say that creating new jobs through start-up businesses and supporting active neighborhood associations are related to those issues.
“They’re connected, without a doubt,” Werthmann said.
Gragert added that the city was dealt a tough year with the amount it gets in CDBG money and an associated HOME grant down by almost $114,000.
“It’s really a difficult situation because we’re getting less funding that we got last year,” Gragert said.
HUD provided Eau Claire with $963,460 in grant money last year through the Community Development Block Grant and HOME programs. This year the city will get $849,670.
In addition to the grant money, some of the local CDBG-funded programs do generate some income, which the city includes as $100,000 in program revenue as part its CDBG budget.
While it normally has a Monday night meeting before voting the following day, the council will only have a Tuesday afternoon meeting this week due to the Memorial Day holiday.
Included on Tuesday’s agenda:
• A public hearing will be held on a dog park and boat launch planned for city land on the south end of Ferry Street by Eau Claire’s Wastewater Treatment Plant. Later in the meeting, the council will vote on plans for those projects.
• The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is offering to pay 75% of the costs for Eau Claire to apply another alum treatment to Half Moon Lake to reduce phosphorous in the water. Part of the city’s ongoing efforts to cut down on algae blooms in the lake, this year’s treatment is expected to have a total cost of $66,120.
• The Oxbow Hotel and The Lakely restaurant are again sponsoring a one-night concert that will shut down the 500 block of Galloway Street. While previously held on a weekday night, The Oxbeaux Street Concert is planning for Aug. 10 — a Saturday. In prior years the concert had been a prelude to the Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival, which is taking this year off but plans to return in 2020.