By Megan Spargo – Benkelman CRA Coordinator
On Wednesday, December 4 the Benkelman City Council and Community Redevelopment Authority (CRA) held a joint meeting to discuss the future of Benkelman.
Before I dive into the meeting, I want to add that earlier that week we had received the exciting news that the City of Benkelman was awarded Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds for Phase I Downtown Revitalization. This first phase is for the planning and design, which will require community input and engagement and will be administered by Miller and Associates and is expected to take about 10 months.
Once the first phase in completed, Benkelman will be applying for Phase II Downtown Revitalization, which will be the implementation of the design for $400,000.
This idea was brought to us at a town-hall style community needs assessment in March of 2016, conducted by DED field staff, Ashley Rice-Gerlach. It was not until December of 2019 that we are seeing this idea become a reality.
In June of this year, Benkelman in partnership with McCook and Cambridge was awarded $405,650 from a Nebraska Affordable Housing Trust Fund (NAHTF) Innovative Housing Grant. These funds will be used to build or bring in new construction homes for households at or below 120% of Area Median Income.
Not a bad year.
So, the question I posed at the beginning of this meeting was: What can we do for our community today that we will be glad we did four years from now.
Members of the City Council present included JoAnn Decker, Tammy Buffington and Deb Stamm. Mayor, Robert Rhoades was also present. CRA members included, Mike Aldridge, Greg Burrows, Mary Deyle and Buck Menuez. The collective group, which also included members from the public brought up topics which include:
• The need for more rentals, especially family rentals- How can we incentivize landlords? Who will own them?
• Marketing Benkelman- We have a hospital, clinic, dentist, chiropractor, vision clinic, nursing home, great schools, fantastic internet.
• Supporting a business incubator as a way to grow jobs in Benkelman
• A vacant housing registry was also brought up
This meeting was arranged to bring these two groups, City Council and CRA together to have open conversations on how the two can collaborate and do some things today, so that four years from now we will be celebrating them. Who knows, maybe sooner.
We want to keep this conversation going. We plan on inviting service groups and community organizations to the next meeting, which is still to be decided.
In the meantime, ask yourself: What can we do today, that we will be so happy we did four years from now.