Supervisor Barb Francis. EJ photo/Travis Charlson

The Mitchell County Board of Supervisors approved two General Obligation, Urban Renewal Loan Agreements last week, setting aside $1.7 million for roads, land purchase and conservation, and another $2 million for housing incentives.

Housing Incentives

The Board agreed to renew a second round of housing incentives, approving $2 million to renew the program.

The program, which will be similar to last year’s incentives, is aimed at commercial and residential builders.

In the past, Smolik has stated he’s “against affordable housing, period.”

The other two supervisors were in favor of the project.

“We have [spent] two years trying to study the housing needs here,” Walk said. “[The study] expressed we need what this project is trying to accomplish.”

Supervisor Francis was in favor but said she would have like to see a lower minimum for housing improvements included in the program. Currently, only renovations of $150,000 or more qualify, but Francis said she would like to see a figure closer to $50,000.

“We have a lot of crappy homes in our county that should be torn down, [but] with this, would help make them more presentable for selling or renting,” Francis said.

Only a limited number of restorations feasibly meet the $150,000 minimum, however.

Tony Stonecypher of the Mitchell County EDC stated that the intention behind the program initially was to focus on adding new valuation to the tax base, rather than supporting old valuation.

Last year’s program added 17 houses.

“It was still far from enough needed– we needed a lot more,” Francis said.

Members of the published spoke in favor of the resolution during the public comments section, including Osage and Riceville Superintendent Barb Schwamman and Osage Mayor Steve Cooper.

Supervisors Barb Francis and Stan Walk voted in favor, while Steve Smolik voted nay.

Otranto Dam Project

Of the $1.7 million in the first agreement, $500,000 is slated to go towards a new Otranto Dam project with the rest to pay for road improvements and land acquisition for conservation efforts.

There’s been discussion of repurposing the dam area, which would open up the river and hopefully make it safer.

“It’s going to be a matter of ‘when’ it fails, not ‘if’,” Milton Owen said about the Otranto Dam during the public hearing.

Owen, who has lived near the dam for a number of years, spoke in favor of the project.

“It’s going to change the texture of the river a little bit, but in a positive manner. I think we’re going to get a little better ecosystem up and down the river,” Owen said.

The goal for the project is to put in a whitewater park, county officials said, like a smaller version of the ones in Manchester and Charles City.

Supervisor Barb Francis said that those other whitewater parks bring in an additional $500,000-750,000 in revenue to their communities.

While the supervisors intend on spending $500,000 of the $1.7 million on the project, and the rest mostly on roads, the money can be moved around between the projects if needed.

All three supervisors voted in favor of the loan agreement.


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