Council approves Robertson Building grant request

-A A +A
By Geoff Hamill

Springfield City Council wants to give a downtown landmark a makeover - if it can get grant money to pay for the improvements. Council considered renovation of the Robertson and McChord Building during its June 10 meeting.

Council considered two items related to the renovation. First, if it wants to move ahead with a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) grant application, council is required to hire an approved planning consultant. Second, council considered approval of the grant application.

Four CDBG-approved planning consultants submitted bids for the work. A council committee recommended Kriss Lowry and Associates (KL&A), of Corinth, as the best qualified firm. Council voted 5-0 to hire KL&A, at a cost of $43,000, plus a standard percentage of HUD grant funds. Councilmember John Hardin was not present. KL&A’s bid was the lowest bid submitted and the firm will be paid from grant funds, if approved.

Next, council considered the application for CDBG grant funding of $779,000.

City Administrator Laurie Smith described the purpose of the grant.

“If this grant is approved, it will be coupled with HUD money that will redevelop the Robertson Building,” she said. “It will have eight downtown living units in that building and the main floor, as you know, will revert back to the city for one dollar a year to be used for some tourism-related duty.”

Council resolved unanimously to move forward with the grant application.

If the project is funded, four one-bedroom apartments and two two-bedroom apartments will be built on the second floor of the Robertson and McChord Building. A handicapped accessible apartment and commercial space will occupy the ground floor. Three of the apartments will be restricted to households at or below 60 percent of the area’s median family income; the remaining units will be reserved for households at or below 80 percent of the area’s median family income. Washington County’s median household income is $42,500, according to the U.S. Census.

Amenities will include hardwood flooring, washer and dryer hookups and laundry equipment in each unit, a secure building entry system with intercom, energy star appliances and natural gas heat.

The building was constructed in 1896 to contain Robertson and McChord’s Dry Goods store. It is part of the Springfield Historic Commercial District, which is listed with the National Register of Historic Places.

Council approved a fiscal year 2013-2014 budget that projects more than $2.6 million in revenue - an increase of $461,407 from last year. An anticipated 16 percent increase in occupational tax revenue accounts for $125,000 of the gain. City administrator Laurie Smith said occupational tax receipts have increased during the last two years, reflecting an improved economy.

Despite increased revenue from other sources and what Mayor John Cecconi describes as, “a comfortable carryover,” council will raise property taxes by four percent, the maximum allowed by law.

Council voted unanimously to donate $1,000 to the reward fund for the capture of the person responsible for the killing of Bardstown Police Officer Jason Ellis.

City Attorney Bill Robinson discussed the rationale for donating to the reward fund rather than the family.

“It’s more of a gesture directly to another local government,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of people reaching out to the family and I think there’s been a lot of fundraisers. But I think that a direct overture from our mayor, on behalf of our city government, to their mayor, is a powerful message that these communities stand united. “

Police Chief Jim Smith reported that six Springfield police officers attended Ellis’ funeral.

Laurie Smith updated council on construction of a new fire station.

“We did receive bids this past week,” she said. “There’s a $1.5 million Rural Development loan with a great rate of 3.25 percent. We did get one bid at $1.507 million. They’re going to remove one of the alternates, so that will allow them a little bit of a contingency fee. So, if everything goes well, they’ll be doing a groundbreaking, I guess, within the next six weeks.”

Council approved a paving contract with Nally & Haydon Surfacing, LLC, at a cost of $41,671. Areas to be paved are: McCord Street from Doctor Street to High Street; Locust Street from High Street to Virginia Avenue; Mayes Street from Commercial Street to George Edward Street; Industry Drive and patching on Lincoln Drive.

Councilmember Brooke Coulter updated council on changes in city park use fees.

“Bernard [Smalley] was having some problems with the scheduling and so many fields are being used,” she said. “We figured, by the end of summer, 125 games will be used by the schools and maybe 58 by the city. Just so you all have a heads-up, if people ask you - we are going to start requesting money per game from the schools, because it is costing us a lot of money to keep it up out there. They’re using the park way more than we do for the city. So, be encouraging to your school board members, who might ask you about it, that we are not making a profit.  It is definitely something that we may break even on. “

In other business, council:
- Approved a Municipal Aid Cooperative contract with the state Department of Rural and Municipal Aid.
- Approved two resolutions to allow refinancing of water and sewer bonds in order to obtain interest cost savings.
- Pre-approved a down payment to lease/purchase a new street sweeper from Tymco, Inc., at a sale price of $122,000. Council declared the currently-owned street sweeper as surplus.
- Accepted a proposal from accountants Smith & Company CPA’s, PLLC, to prepare the City’s annual financial statement for $13,470. An optional “single audit,” necessary if a threshold amount of federal funding is used, will bear a surcharge as much as $6,047.

 The next meeting of the Springfield City Council is scheduled for July 9 at 5:30 p.m.