COUNTY NEWS: Economic development area OK’d; redevelopment commission budget may be restored

Helmsburg economic development area OK’d

Helmsburg has been cleared to take the next steps toward its future after the Brown County Redevelopment Commission’s vote last month.

The RDC voted unanimously June 22 to confirm an economic development area for Helmsburg. This allows the RDC to buy properties in Helmsburg that are “distressed” or “abandoned” and to convert them to livable, owner-occupied homes, or to clear them and build new properties.

The county would actually make these purchases, but the Helmsburg Leadership Group has been directing what they’d like to see done in their community.

By law, citizens can still remonstrate against the Helmsburg EDA if they wish.

During the June 14 Helmsburg community meeting, residents discussed designing a plan for what they want to see done with certain properties and an overall vision for the community. Becoming a home-based business hub also was discussed.

Jim Kemp will facilitate a discussion about a community vision at the next Helmsburg Leadership Team meeting. It’s been set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 25 at the Brown County Community Church.

Where money to purchase properties would come from hasn’t been finalized, but one idea that’s been tossed around is using the “sock factory money,” from the sale of the former For Bare Feet building. The redevelopment commission manages that money.

A special meeting about the details of purchasing properties will take place among Helmsburg leaders and RDC members at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 11 at the Brown County Public Library.

Redevelopment commission budget may be restored

The Brown County Redevelopment Commission may be getting a budget from county government again next year.

For 2017, the commission — which is in charge of attracting employment, housing and other economic opportunities to the county — had a budget of zero, member Dave Redding said in March.

The plan was to ask for additional appropriations from a reserve fund to pay specific expenses, which is what the RDC did.

Those included $5,000 to apply for the Hometown Collaboration Initiative, $5,000 for a grant administrator, $1,200 for annual maintenance and additions to the RDC website, about $3,000 to pay off a sewer project report, and other expenses.

The money the commission was using this year came from the sale of the For Bare Feet sock factory in 2013 — a nest egg of about $400,000.

At the July 5 Brown County Commissioners meeting, Diana Biddle offered to set aside some money in the county commissioners’ budget for redevelopment needs. For example, the RDC is working on applying for $90,000 worth of grants related to overall economic planning for the county and updating the county’s comprehensive land use plan, and they may need financial consultants and more grant administrator services for those, she said. She wanted to plan ahead, as budget hearings are coming up in August.

Since at least 2008, the redevelopment commission — and before it, the economic development commission — received a budget ranging from about $20,000 to about $60,000 from county government, according to Brown County Democrat archives. It was often funded by county economic development income tax money, or CEDIT, and for several years was a line item in the county commissioners’ budget.

Biddle said she hated to see the RDC using the sock factory fund, which she referred to as “seed money,” to pay its administrative expenses, and the other two county commissioners agreed.

The county council will review all budget requests during the week of Aug. 15.