ROCK FALLS – The council took steps Tuesday to implement the city's first facade improvement grant program.
The program will be administered by the Rock Falls Community Development Corp., and in its initial year, funded by the city. The city budgeted $20,000 in fiscal year 2014-15 to get the program started.
The funding is in the form of 50/50 matching grants. The maximum award per grant is $5,000.
Facade programs are often run by Main Street programs, but because there is no such program in Rock Falls, the RFCDC has collaborated with the city to get things going.
The council approved the application for the program, and the appointment of six members to the Facade Improvement Committee. Members are: Lee Folsom, 3rd Ward alderman; Mark Searing, city building inspector; Gayla Kolb, RFCDC program coordinator; Tim Wilson, Rock Falls Tourism executive director; and local businessmen Bob Klomman and Jeff Guthrie.
The committee will be entrusted with selecting grant winners from the applicant pool.
Kolb did much of the work on the application package, but it has taken some time to determine how the program would be funded.
"We've never had a facade program," Kolb said. "I wrote the program 2 years ago, but it kept hitting snags with funding."
When RFCDC Executive Director Randy Balk took the helm April 7, he made the program one of his priorities, Kolb said.
The first program packet had to be updated to reflect the city's new design guidelines developed for the downtown area.
"Originally, we used the same guidelines as the RB&W District, but when the city put in new guidelines downtown, it made things difficult," Kolb said. "We put in a new design guide that complements the RB&W guidelines."
Searing said the design fixes were fairly simple.
"There were just some small things with the fencing and awnings," Searing said. "We just had to make sure the downtown matches up with the RB&W District."
Several business owners have expressed an interest in the program, so the city expects the money to go quickly.
"The RB&W area is really filling up right now, so I would expect to see this progran continue after this year," Searing said.
How the program will be funded after the first round has yet to be determined. Officials will first gauge interest before making long-range plans. She said the city has not ruled out the possibility of funding the program beyond its first year.
"We'll look at how much demand there is and take it from there," Kolb said. "The initial amount could take care of it and we might not even need more funding."
Mayor Bill Wescott has mentioned building permits as a possible future funding source for the program.
The 16-page application packet includes information about eligibility, a map of targeted areas, design guidelines, and forms to be completed.
Work approved for grant funding must be inspected at the time of completion before the city's 50 percent is reimbursed to the business owner.
The Rock Falls City Council next meets at 6:30 p.m. July 1, at City Hall, 603 W. 10th St.
The agendas will be posted at www.rockfalls61071.com and at City Hall. Call 815-622-1100 for more information.
The City Council meeting also can be viewed live on Channel 5.