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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — The Colfax Municipal Building elevator project will take a step forward with an application for Community Development Block Grant funds to receive a $16,000 planning grant.
Based on the recommendation of the village board’s elevator commission, the Colfax Village Board at the September 28 meeting approved contracting with Cedar Corporation out of Menomonie to do a facilities analysis with a CDBG planning grant, and with the village’s portion of $5,340 for the planning grant coming out of the elevator fund.
The elevator commission has been fund raising for the past several years, and to date, the elevator fund contains a little more than $64,000.
Earlier this year, based on the recommendation of the elevator commission, the village board approved using $2,500 to contract with Cedar Corporation to write the planning grant application.
Work on the planning grant application has been slowed down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The planning grant will be used to complete the conceptual design phase, which will provide sufficient information to understand the renovation size, configuration and the extent of the renovation to allow for a cost estimate for the entire elevator project, said Patrick Beilfuss, a planner with Cedar Corporation.
The goal is to make the municipal building handicapped accessible on all three floors, with handicapped accessible bathrooms on all three floors and to renovate the basement so it is accessible and available to a wide variety of community groups, he said.
The information from the planning grant will be needed to apply for CDBG funds to complete the elevator project.
The Colfax Municipal Building basement, which was at one time used by the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, the Dunn County Barbershoppers, by church groups, the Colfax Woman’s Club, 4-H clubs, the Kiwanis and for Red Cross blood drives and for roller skating, to name a few of the activities held in the basement, has been closed to the public for 20 years.
Colfax does not have any other public space that can be used as a community center.
Low to moderate
Since Colfax has more than 51 percent of its residents designated as low to moderate income, the village qualifies for a two-for-one Community Development Block Grant of up to $1 million to complete the elevator project and renovation, Beilfuss said.
For example, if the cost of the elevator project is $1 million, the CDBG money would cover $660,000, and the village would be responsible for $340,000 of the cost.
The elevator commission intends to continue fund raising and applying for other grants to cover the portion of the cost not covered by a CDBG grant.
Colfax recently was awarded $592,000 in CDBG funds for the Red Cedar River bank stabilization project to keep the river from washing out the village’s wastewater treatment lagoons. Federal money available through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will pay the bulk of the remainder of the $1.6 million project, leaving Colfax to pay approximately $40,000.
The planning grant will pay for the facilities assessment to evaluate the building for function, including the handicapped accessibility, and to determine a cost for remodeling so there is a firm number for the CDBG application, Beilfuss said.
The planning grant is $16,000, of which $13,000 will be used for the facilities analysis and $3,000 will be used for grant administration, he said.
The CDBG planning grant covers two-thirds of the cost, so the grant will pay for $10,660 of the facilities assessment, and the village will pay $5,340, Beilfuss explained.
According to information provided by Cedar Corporation, the facilities analysis will include architectural, handicapped accessibility and functionality assessment; structural assessment; building systems assessment; site/civil assessment; evaluate current features and equipment that should be salvaged, replaced or added; review parking site access and traffic patterns; and review of equipment maintenance and storage.
If the village did not apply for the planning grant, the facilities assessment would still be needed to apply for the $1 million in CDBG funds to complete the elevator project and basement renovation, Beilfuss said.
The facilities assessment will include any code violations and whether asbestos is present and must be abated. All of that information will be needed for the grant application and will contribute to how the grant application scores, he said.
Before Cedar Corporation begins the grant application, the project must be discussed with the Wisconsin Department of Administration, Beilfuss said.
State officials with the DOA want to understand the project before funding the planning grant to make sure the project is workable, he said.
The state generally looks favorably on a high percentage of the applications, and there would not be any reason why they would not look favorably on the municipal building project, Beilfuss said.
The elevator commission met with Sara Hinz, an architect with Cedar Corporation, and Lynn McIntyre, a grant coordinator with Cedar Corporation, on September 17 to talk about the planning grant.
Members of the elevator commission unanimously approved a motion to recommend the village board move forward with the planning grant and to transfer the money from the elevator fund to pay for the village’s portion.
Members of the elevator commission conducted a quick walk-through of the municipal building with Hinz and McIntyre to give them an idea of the scope of the project.
After Cedar Corporation receives confirmation from the state to proceed with the planning grant application, Hinz and McIntyre will meet with department heads, such as the administrator-clerk-treasurer, director of the library and the police chief, as part of the facilities assessment.
The grant application usually takes about two months to complete and submit, Beilfuss said.
According to information provided by Cedar Corporation, the grant application process includes adopting a citizen participation plan; holding a citizen participation plan public hearing; approving a resolution for matching funds (the $5,340 from the elevator fund raised through fund-raising by the elevator commission); adoption of a policy for non-violent civil rights demonstrations; proof of matching funds; maps; a narrative; a fair housing ordinance; and a resolution authorizing Cedar Corporation to submit the application for CDBG planning funds.
The grant application process is covered by the $2,500 that the elevator commission recommended the village board use from the elevator fund.
The Colfax Village Board unanimously approved a motion to move forward with the planning grant application and the planning grant and to transfer money out of the elevator fund to pay for the application and the village’s portion of the planning grant.
Voting in favor of the motion were Scott Gunnufson, village president, and Village Trustees Mark Halpin, Carey Davis, Logan Michels and Gary Stene.
Village Trustee Anne Jenson abstained from voting since the explanation of the planning grant process had already started by the time she arrived at the meeting.
Village Trustee Margaret Burcham was absent from the meeting.
Since Colfax recently was awarded CDBG funds for the river bank stabilization project, Colfax could apply for the $1 million in CDBG funds for the elevator project in May of 2021, Beilfuss said.
During the elevator commission meeting, Hinz and McIntyre said if Colfax applies for CDBG funds in 2021 and submits a successful grant application, the grant would be awarded later in 2021, and 2022 would be used for preparing bidding documents, soliciting for bids and awarding bids, and construction could begin in 2023.
Stene wanted to know how long the facilities assessment could be put on hold, if it were necessary, before the facilities assessment became obsolete.
If the elevator project was delayed by a number of years, the cost for construction would need to be updated, but the plan itself, as long as it still meets the needs of the building and the community, “can sit there for years,” Beilfuss said.
A number of fund-raising events have been held for the elevator project over the past several years.
The elevator commission held a thrift sale at the Colfax Fairgrounds in August of 2019 that successfully raised $6,000 for the elevator project.
Elevator commission members decided to postpone the thrift sale this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and to consider it again next summer.
The elevator commission is, however, working out the details for a “$22 for 22 steps” fund raiser.
The steps in the back hallway of the municipal building leading up the auditorium contains 22 steps, and the idea is to ask for donations of $22 for the 22 steps.
When the elevator project is completed, the 22 back steps will be removed and rebuilt to accommodate the elevator.
Keep an eye on the Colfax Messenger for additional details on the “$22 for 22 steps” fund-raiser.