DALLAS — The Dallas Urban Renewal Agency Board approved providing $600,000 in urban renewal money to complete Dallas’ new senior center.
The city secured a $1.9 million Community Development Block Grant in 2014 to build the center, but the project suffered delays, including a location change. Business Oregon Infrastructure Finance Authority, which administers the CDBG program, waived the deadline last year so the city could finish the project.
A new hurdle emerged on Feb. 5 when the city opened bids to build the new center and the lowest bid came in higher than the funds available to pay for it. City Manager Greg Ellis said the lowest bid was $2.188 million, and after design and other costs, $1.6 million of the grant was left for construction.
Ellis said the city had 10 days from the bid opening to notify a contractor of its intent to award the bid or risk losing the CDBG money. He said after opening the bids, he began thinking of ways to close the gap in funding so the project wouldn’t suffer another setback.
Ellis landed on urban renewal and called the agency board — consisting of the members of the Dallas City Council — on Feb. 13 to approve the expenditure.
“I started looking at the urban renewal plan. There’s a report in the plan that was done when the urban renewal was first done in 2004,” Ellis said. “It references public buildings in the plan, so it is possible to do that. You have to do a minor amendment to the plan to use those funds, but there is a method to get there.”
Dallas’ urban renewal district covers the downtown business district, including the site on Church Street where the new senior center will be built. The district collects property taxes to be used for improvements, such as “street scape” projects used to make the area more pedestrian friendly and to encourage business investment.
To make the move final, the board will have to approve a resolution amending its plan to spend money on a public building. That resolution was on the board agenda at a meeting Tuesday night after press time.
Ellis said the agency will have to seek a loan for the senior center money that would be paid back over 10 years at a cost of $63,000 to $65,000 per year. The district has $454,000 now, and anticipates another $195,000 in revenue this year, said board member Michael Schilling.
The district has $85,000 per year in debt service, and plans for another large improvement project for the 600 and 700 blocks of Main Street are in the works. Ellis said how that project will be paid for isn’t final yet, but he believed between the urban renewal and gas tax money, the improvement is in the budget.
Agency board member Kelly Gabliks said she would likely approve the money going to the senior center, but said she is unhappy with the lack of budget information and the rushed decision.
“The numbers are so nebulous out here that I’m not sure what I’m agreeing to,” she said.
Gabliks asked if approval could be delayed until the board met again on Tuesday.
Polk Community Development Corporation Executive Director Rita Grady, who helped the city apply for the CDBG funding, said she had doubts about whether the state would be willing to do that.
“I think Greg is right. You need to make a decision,” Grady said.
City Attorney Lane Shetterly agreed, saying IFA has already given the project more time than others in the state when it granted an extension last spring.
“I do know from the tenor of the conversation that we had, they were very tenuous even about that extension. I would not want you to rely on my advice that you have until Wednesday to do this,” Shetterly said. “I can’t say that it’s fatal to it, but I can’t give you assurance that by that time the state wouldn’t just say that you’ve had your money long enough.”
The vote in favor of giving money to the center was unanimous.
“I’m really, really unhappy with this. We are throwing a hell of a lot of numbers around,” Gabliks said. “I just don’t think this is a good way to make decisions, to not have all the information in front of us. I don’t think I could leave and if someone walked up to me and asked me to explain where the money is coming from, I don’t think I could explain it. I don’t like voting on something where I feel like that.”
Jerry Wennstrom, a member of the Dallas Area Seniors, thanked the agency board.
“Speaking on behalf of the seniors … we appreciate what you’ve just done,” he said. “This has been a long, hard drag. You all know that. Rita knows that. Everybody knows that. This is as close as we’ve come. We hope everything flies and we’re looking forward to moving into a new building.”
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