EDA changes direction of its housing program

One of the first items of business for the Cook County – Grand Marais Economic Development Authority (EDA) at its January 14 meeting was making appointments to committees and that discussion turned to who would take over the role EDA housing coordinator Nancy Grabko played on some of those committees since the EDA had elected not to renew its contract with Grabko’s company, Community Fundraising Solutions (CFS) at the December 2013 EDA meeting.

EDA President Mark Sandbo said he and EDA Treasurer Scott Harrison had talked with Grabko about the status of the housing rehab program. “As you know, we are trying to be more fiscally responsible. One thing we’d like to do is see more affordable housing projects instead of rehab. However, there are some rehab things that CFS needs to do. We came to an agreement with CFS for the next few months.”

Harrison nodded, “The proposal is significantly less because it is a ‘wind-down’ of the projects under way.”

At the December 2012 meeting, Grabko submitted a proposal for housing program services for 2014 for a lump sum of $72,000, to be paid from EDA levy funds and administrative fees from grants overseen for the EDA by CFS. 

Harrison recommended approving an adjusted CFS contract, which will be $3,200 each month for four months, for a total of $12,800, to give CFS time to complete residential and commercial rehab projects underway. Under the agreement, if there is construction supervision work not done after that time, Steve Grabko of CFS will be reimbursed at a rate of $75 per hour to complete them.

Harrison said there is one rehab project that has not started yet. If it is not begun by the beginning of April, Harrison said the EDA would likely not undertake that rehab. “We may give the money back,” he said.

In addition to the contracted amount, Harrison said there is $8,800 in administrative fees earned by CFS on grants the company facilitated for the EDA. Once the projects are completed and the EDA receives those fees, ¾ of the funding, or $6,600, will go to CFS as part of the fee for wrapping up the existing projects.

George Wilkes of the Cook County Local Energy Project, at the EDA meeting to talk about another matter, expressed concern about the pending termination of the contract with CFS. “We have been working with the EDA housing and have had a good relationships. This is just my 2 cents, but I feel that was a valuable program. We would like to see it continue in some way.”

President Mark Sandbo said, “No one doesn’t want to see this happening, but it was 60 percent of our budget. If we move forward with rehab housing, we need to find another way to do it. If I had to decide what to do with our housing budget, I’d rather see it used for affordable housing.”

Wilkes said, “CCLEP would like to be involved, to help ensure that any new housing constructed is energy efficient.”