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Mason City helps fund rehab projects with forgivable loans

MASON CITY — Donnie Cooper stood in the sunlight and looked down at the gravel parking lot at his car repair business at 1414 N. Federal Ave.

Soon it will be paved, one of several improvements Cooper plans through a forgivable loan program instituted by the city.

The program, called the Corridor Revitalization Loan program (CoRL) is designed to help property owners repair and rehab their businesses.

The City Council approved forgivable loans last week for Cooper’s business on North Federal and for the Ashley Inn on South Federal.

Cooper will receive almost $21,000 for several exterior repairs and upgrades including paving the the gravel parking lot with asphalt, storm drain work, sidewalk repairs, fence replacement, landscaping, roof work, painting, replacing the furnace and air conditioning system and updating signage.

Total cost of the project is just under $42,000. NSB Bank has verified Cooper has adequate assets to meet the 100 percent match requirement. “Thus, the loan is half the total cost,” said Steven Van Steenhuyse, director of development services.

“Cooper is making significant improvements to this building that will increase the assessed value of this property,” Van Steenhuyse said, adding that the exterior improvements will also improve the aesthetics of the neighborhood.

The council also approved a $30,000 forgivable loan to Kelly Helgeland of Kelly Motel Corp. for upgrades and repairs to the motel at 3451 S. Federal Ave.

The project includes new siding for office and caretaker’s residence, replacement of windows in the same area, new doors for the motel rooms, a new steel roof, repainting the motel and resurfacing the parking lot.

Van Steenhuyse said total cost is $65,000. Helgeson will receive $30,000, the maximum amount allowed. He said First Citizens National Bank has provided a loan commitment of up to $30,000. Helgeson is responsible for the remaining $5,000.

Just as in the case of the North End property, the CoRL loan review committee noted how the improvements will increase the assessed value of the hotel property and improve the aesthetics of the area.

Both loans are financed with TIF funds in the Capital Improvement Plan and have no impact on the city operating budget.

City Council members praised Cooper and Helgeland for making use of the city program to help renovate their properties.

Travis Hickey thanked them both for their investments. Councilman John Lee said, “Hopefully, this will help get others involved.”

Mayor Eric Bookmeyer said, “This program is doing exactly what it was intended to do.”

The CoRL program is part of a package of programs approved by the City Council in 2015 to improve and enhance the city’s older commercial corridors, primarily on north and south Federal Avenue (excluding downtown).

It also can be used in the central part of Highway 122 where the road is split into two one-way streets.

The program provides a forgivable loan of up to $30,000 for improvements to properties that improve the aesthetic appearance of the area and raise property values and must be matched 100 percent from other sources.

If the owner maintains ownership and maintains the improvements for seven years, the loan is forgiven.

The loan is forgiven at a rate of 1/84th per month up to seven years. If the owner fails to maintain the improvements during the forgiveness period, the balance of the loan becomes due.

Trump-Clinton tossup in Iowa, new poll says

DES MOINES — Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are running neck-and-neck in the presidential election race in Iowa, according to a new Monmouth University Poll published Tuesday.

Trump leads Clinton by 2 percentage points among likely Iowa voters, 44 percent to 42 percent, according to the poll.

That slim advantage is well within the poll’s 4.9 percent margin of error.

“It’s a toss-up right now, but Iowa could be the leading edge of a Midwest push for Trump,” Monmouth Poll director Patrick Murray said in a news release.

The poll was Monmouth’s first in Iowa since the caucuses.

Recent polls on the presidential race in Iowa have been scattered, but Monmouth is the first to show Trump in the lead.

Recent polls from Public Policy Polling and Evolving Strategies showed Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, with a narrow lead. A recent Loras College Poll showed Clinton up 13 percentage points on Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee.

Independent voters went for Trump in the new Monmouth poll, 39 percent to 35 percent.

Monmouth also tested Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson (6 percent) and Green Party candidate Jill Stein (1 percent).

Six percent of respondents said they are undecided.

Monmouth surveyed 401 likely Iowa voters from July 8 to July 11.

Incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley leads Democratic challenger Patty Judge, 52 percent to 42 percent, in the Monmouth Poll.

Independents went for Grassley, 52 percent to 40 percent, in the poll.

Grassley’s decision to not hold a confirmation hearing on the president’s Supreme Court nominee is not popular with Iowa voters, but it is not affecting Grassley’s job approval among those same voters, according to the poll.

Only 25 percent of respondents said they approve of Grassley’s position on delaying Supreme Court nominee hearings until after the November election.

But 56 percent said they approve of the job Grassley is doing, while just 33 percent disapprove.

“Grassley’s overall job approval rating should be enough to give him the win unless Judge can make further inroads on the Garland issue,” Murray said in the news release.

5 finalists for Mason City fire chief

MASON CITY — The five finalists for Mason City fire chief will meet members of the public at a reception next week.

The list includes two internal candidates: Mason City Fire Department Deputy Chief David Johnson and Capt. Jared Ogbourne.

Outside candidates are: Des Moines Fire Capt. Mark Dooley; Lincoln Park (Michigan) Fire Chief Al Dyer Jr.; and Tim Heimer, division chief-fire operations and training for the Grand Island, Nebraska, Fire Department.

“We have a very good cross-section and a diverse group,” said Mason City Human Resources Director Perry Buffington. “Very qualified. Both internal and external candidates.“

The public is invited to meet the candidates from 7 to 8 p.m. Monday, July 18, in the Salsbury Room of the MacNider Art Museum, 303 Second S.E.

Members of the City Council also will meet with the candidates.

The finalists are vying to fill the vacancy created when former Mason City Fire Chief Bob Platts retired last month.

Platts served the department for 33 years, spending the last 13½ as chief.

Current Mason City Acting Fire Chief Doug Janssen did not apply for the chief position.

Janssen said he plans to retire within in the next few years.

City staff will interview the finalists on July 18 and 19.

Officials plan to select a new fire chief in early August.