The Brunswick Urban Redevelopment Authority will play an important role in distributing the $487,000 in the Norwich Commons fund.
But after discussing their role with the fund at Thursday’s board meeting, they agreed more clarification is needed.
Al Verheyn, the authority’s chair, said he was under the impression his agency would manage the funds from start to finish. He and other authority members learned otherwise at the meeting.
Travis Stegall, the city’s economic development authority director, said the URA’s role will be to review loan and grant applications, and send them to the city for final approval.
Stegall said $400,000 will be dedicated to a revolving loan fund, with the remaining $87,000 for grants. The intent is for help encourage improvements along the Norwich corridor from Fourth to S streets to help business owners improve and expand. Loans of up to $10,000 for a three to one match will be considered. Grants of up to $1,000 will be distributed for smaller projects that could include a neighborhood effort to beautify a block.
“Because it is a short-term loan, we will be able to recapitalize it faster,” Stegall said.
John Donahue, a URA board member, expressed his support for the program.
“It works in a lot of good ways,” he said. “I think it has a lot of potential.”
Stegall agreed with board members that a clear set of guidelines to help with the approval and denial process is needed.
City commissioner Felica Harris said the intent of including the URA in the process is to help raise the authority’s profile in the community.
The question of cost was raised during the discussion. Specifically, board members wanted to know what costs could be incurred by the URA, which has operated on a minimal budget for years until it received more than $300,000 in funding earlier this year. They discussed a possible fee for loan applications that are approved to cover the administrative costs of the paperwork.
“There will be some costs, I’m sure,” Donahue said. “They do not have to be great. The final decision rests with the commissioners.”
Harris said the URA’s role will be more as a liaison to help the city administer the program.
“It should not cause any interruption in funds the URA has,” she said.
Stegall said board members can expect a set of guidelines to follow before they begin reviewing the applications.
Board members also discussed potential projects for 2021. Verheyn suggested contacting the URA in Atlanta to learn how they became successful.
The URA does not have a proposed convention center and hotel, or a splash pad at Mary Ross Waterfront Park to deal with any more, so they are looking for new roles in the city.
“The community center is dead. It’s not going to happen,” Verheyn said. “We have tools as an authority. We are an independent organization.”