By BECKY KISER
"We're at the finish line of the application for the Rural Housing Incentive District (RHID) application for the Frontier Apartments," Kim Rupp, Hays finance director, announced at the beginning of Thursday night's public hearing during the city commission meeting.
The commission previously adopted a resolution with findings of the need for middle-income housing. The Kansas Secretary of Commerce approved of the RHID creation in mid-October. The process is detailed, with many steps required by state law and the city's economic development policy.
Atchison developer Justin Pregont, Frontier Apartments, LLC, plans to rehab the former St. Joseph School, 210 W. 13th Street, into high quality apartments for moderate income renters.
"The last remaining domino for us to really kick it into high gear is figure out whether or not we've received a moderate-income housing award through the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation," Pregont said, "... and whether this is going to go forward immediately or whether we're going to push the pause button and try again next year to receive that same pot of money."
Frontier Apartments has applied for a state $360,000 Moderate-Income Housing Grant (MIHG) from the state. Applications have also been made for state and federal historic tax credits for the limestone structure built in 1908 and listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Pregont told commissioners he has "some level of optimism" that there seems to some bipartisan momentum in the state legislature for expanding the moderate housing program.
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"The city of Hays and Ellis County have never received an award through the (MIHG) program.
"I think we put together a great application. I hope we can get that award."
If that doesn't happen by the end of the year, Pregont pledged to resubmit the application for 2022 funding.
"I am anticipating positive news, but in the event that we don't, don't be disappointed. We'll be back next time around. If it doesn't come to be this time, I'm really confident that it would be next time."
The developer estimates that approximately $1.78 million of the total $2.18 million project costs are RHID-eligible expenses under state law and the city’s economic development policy. The RHID would generate approximately $450,000 in incremental property tax revenues over the 20-year term of the RHID.
"Our design plan is about 40 percent finished." Pregont said. "We've developed a really good relationship with Paul-Wertenberger Construction of Hays to be the contractor on that project and we went and visited Horizon Appliances this afternoon to get that process going."
The development encompasses an adaptive reuse and historic preservation project in downtown Hays featuring eight one-bedroom units averaging 770 square feet, and four two-bedroom units averaging 1,000 square feet.
"We're just excited at this prospect," said Sandy Jacobs, mayor. "Thank you for your collaboration," Pregont added.
After closing the public hearing, commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance establishing the Frontier Apartments RHID, adopting the development plan and authorizing execution of the development agreement.
The RHID will be created unless the Hays USD 489 Board of Education or the Ellis County Commission adopts a resolution in opposition within 30 days after the public hearing.
South Vine Street Reconstruction
A $147,984 construction engineering agreement was approved with Kirkham Michael Engineers, Ellsworth, related to reconstruction of south Vine Street from just south of 13th Street to the south city limit.
In July 2019, Hays received a $1 million Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) City Connecting Link Improvement Program (CCLIP) grant for the project .
The KDOT project is estimated to cost nearly $4 million with construction to begin in the spring.
Speed Limit Changes
After input from residents and the Hays Police Department, commissioners approved five speed limit changes as recommended by city staff.
They are located on 32nd/33rd Street, south Main Street, east and west 8th Street, and east 13th Street. The school zone speed limit in front of Hays High School will also change from 20 to 25 mph.
Commissioner Shaun Musil voted against the ordinance citing disapproval of the speed increase on south Main.
"I know you say it's wide enough." Musil said. "I'm just conscious of all the housing down there and us wanting to increase it, along with the pool and a kid-related business that's going to be down there. I just don't think it's a good idea."
Hays Police Chief Don Scheibler said he'd had no feedback from local drivers about the changes.
In other business, commissioners:
* Approved a pool reimbursement request of $42,497 from the Hays Recreation Commission for the 2021 municipal pool operating loss.
* Approved minor updates to the Comprehensive Financial Management Policy adopted in
* Approved a resolution authorizing the City Manager Toby Dougherty to execute agreements related to the recent national opioid settlement action. Cities in Kansas will receive 25 percent of any settlement funds the state receives.
* Heard a progress report of recent activities by city departments.
* Were advised of upcoming community events during December.
Commissioner Ron Mellick was absent from the meeting. The other commissioners thanked Mellick for his 12 years of service as a city commissioner, with Jacobs calling him "one of the best public servants I've been around in terms of being informed, making sure he's connected with all the projects that the city is doing."
A 15-minute executive session was called at the end of the meeting by City Manager Toby Dougherty to discuss property acquisition. No action was taken.