Fund set up for ‘community driven projects’

By John McLoone

The City of Hastings 2022 budget included $100,000 for a new Community Investment Fund that will accept applications for partnerships on “community driven projects.”

The city council gave approval to the Community Investment Fund at its meeting last Monday night.

A kick-off meeting is planned sometime this month to launch the program, which is meant to help fund community projects at city parks or other city property.

Guidelines on the fund drafted by City Parks & Recreation Director Chris Jenkins said, “This is about community partnership. The city will award the Community Investment Fund to create vibrant, community-supported public projects. Vibrant projects contribute to a strong quality of life, sense of place and Hastings’ identity. Community-supported projects demonstrate public awareness, civic engagement and/or local enjoyment. Public projects are open and available for public use and enjoyment.”

The city is hoping to hear from community organizations with ideas for additions to city parks, items that wouldn’t generally fit into the budget. There’s hope that groups could come forward with matching funds for projects to make the $100,000 investment go further.

Applications will be accepted on an ongoing basement. The first application review is set for March 31.

“There is not a maximum grant award. However, the city may limit grants in order to fund multiple project applications. Matching dollars are not required by the CIF program but will help demonstrate community support, as well as help the CIF funds go further to partner with multiple projects,” the fund plan states.

Examples of such projects, according to the plan, include: 1. Streetscape beautification and walkability. 2. Enhancements to parks or athletic facilities. 3. Trails and non-motorized infrastructure. 4. Public art. 5. Improved access to public amenities. 6. Tourism amenities. 7. Historic preservation or commemoration.

8. Studies to investigate otherwise eligible projects.

9. Seed funding for pilot projects. “This is a positive and exciting project,” said Wietecha. “This came out of discussions this summer with the finance committee and at a city council workshop. It was included in the 2022 budget.”

Money can be carried forward to future years if it isn’t spent in the year it’s budgeted.

Councilmember Mark Vaughn was a big proponent of the project.

“It’s building a nest egg for the community to make meaningful improvements where the passion of the community lies,” he said.

Vaughn said there are a lot of good ideas that don’t fit into the regular budget cycle, and this fund can be the place for funding those.

“It gives a little bit of a voice to those people that are coming up with some of those things that don’t make the regular budget cycle,” said Vaughn.

Potential applicants are encouraged to meet with city staff to get the process going. Jenkins can be reached at 651-4806175 or by email at [email protected] to get the application process started.

January 11, 2022