City approves $80K in special budget requests

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The Powell City Council approved 10 special funding requests for the fiscal year 2019-2020 budget, totaling more than $80,000.

At a Monday meeting, the council denied a request for cash from Mountain Spirit Habitat for Humanity, opting instead for an in-kind donation of the same amount. The Powell Golf Course was awarded $20,000 of a $43,000 request. All other requests were approved at or above the requested amount.

While the council denied Habitat for Humanity’s request for cash, they offered to waive $2,000 worth of permit fees. One of the concerns raised was whether cash donations would go directly toward construction or support administrative costs. Nikki Hoellwarth, director of Mountain Spirit, said the organization’s administrative costs are covered by their Bent Street store revenues and the budget request was directly for construction. She suggested the city could ensure the funds were spent in this manner by not dispursing the funding until they broke ground on the home construction.

Hoellwarth expressed appreciation that the council was willing to help the organization in its goals, but was concerned in-kind donations would impact the planned funding model. She said the organization is hoping to build one low-income house in Powell and Cody every year. To fund its past construction, the organization has been relying on federal funding through the USDA, which is full of red tape.

Hoellwarth said they’d like to move toward a revolving loan model, in which the Wyoming Community Development Authority acts as the mortgage lender for the Mountain Spirit homes. Mountain Spirit then can take the funds it receives from WCDA and put it toward building another home. The homes are sold for $155,900 and are valued around $220,000. The home loans, however, would not easily factor in savings from the fee waivers the city provides in-kind. They couldn’t lower the mortgage by $2,000, for example.

“That’s not necessarily how it works,” Hoellwarth said in an interview after the meeting. 

During the hearing on these special requests, City Finance Director Kaela Nelson said there are ways to factor in in-kind donations; Hoellwarth is working with Nelson to figure out how that could work.

The council also deliberated on a request from Northwest College for $5,000, which would pay part of the costs for live entertainment for its annual Paint The Town Red event. The event is tied to arriving students for the fall semester and aims to get them excited about life in Powell.

“I thought it was a great event,” said Mayor John Wetzel.

Councilor Lesli Spencer raised concerns that the city was providing money for entertainment in excess of what it provided a couple charitable organizations. Councilor Scott Mangold said the funding should act as a match. The mayor said the $5,000 was only about half the cost of the live entertainment. The council voted to approve the request.

The council voted to approve the mayor’s recommendation for $20,000 toward the Powell Golf Course, which was less than half what the organization requested. Wetzel said the situation at the course was “complicated.” He said the funding the city provided would be matched by private donations of those who utilize and enjoy the golf course.

The council also approved $2,500 for Big Brothers, Big Sisters, $10,000 for Youth Clubs of Park County, $4,000 for Caring for Powell Animals (which operates the animal shelter), $3,000 to the Powell Economic Partnership for a Country Christmas event, $7,000 for Crisis Intervention, $4,000 for Park County Court Supervised Treatment Program (also known as drug court), $5,000 for the Powell Recreation District and $20,000 for the Powell Senior Center. The total in approved requests — including the $2,000 of in-kind support for Mountain Spirit — came to $82,500.

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