Council OKs grant application for new facility

designArc image: A preliminary exterior rendering shows the possible design for a joint new facility addressing food insecurity which would house the Food Pantry, Brookings Backpack Project, Senior Commodity, and United Way Programs.

BROOKINGS – The Brookings City Council has approved applying for a grant to build a new facility to address food insecurity and provide a better building for the food pantry.

All in all, the council approved a Community Development and Housing Needs assessment plan as part of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) application; designated the city manager to sign documents and be the Environmental Certifying Officer for the CDBG grant; and authorized the city manager to sign and submit a CDBG application.

The grant

Jacob Meshke, assistant city manager, explained the grant.

“The approximate $2 million Community Development Block Grant would fund a joint facility addressing food insecurity that would house the Food Pantry, Brookings Backpack Project, Senior Commodity, and the United Way. The building would be located on First Lutheran Church property under a long-term lease with the United Way serving as the building owner,” Meshke said, displaying a map that showed the future location of the building behind First Lutheran, north of its east parking lot.

“The City Council had previously identified about $300,000 for the project,” Meshke said, and staff recommends using those funds for expenses that can’t be paid for with the grant money.

At this time, it has been determined that the CDBG funding would cover all necessary site work and construction activities, according to a memo by Meshke attached to the agenda. 

Todd Kays is executive director of the First Planning District, which prepares grant applications.

The CDBG is part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. With the CARES allocation came approximately $6 million set aside for COVID-based projects, Kays said.

This food pantry project addresses food insecurity, which is one of the prescribed guidelines for the COVID dollars, he said. Brookings is requesting up to $2 million and, at this time, there is no requirement for matching funding, Kays added.

Of that $6 million, $2 million has already gone to other projects, Kays said. First Planning District will assist the city in the preparation and submission of the application and assist with the administration of the funding.

The preliminary budget analysis set total expenses at $1,947,390, with an estimated $180,000 for site improvement and grading; $864,500 for building enclosure and finishes; $455,000 for building systems; and $447,890 for development costs.

The building

Heidi Gullickson, executive director of the Brookings Area United Way, talked about the different entities that will be housed in the building and the impact it will have on the community.

The United Way will continue to house the Volunteer Connections of the Helpline Center, which will help the Food Pantry and Backpack Program recruit volunteers. 

“Really looking to make this building as flexible as we can,” Gullickson said, adding the Backpack Program has said when they don’t need it, their space can be used for meetings. 

“Having the loading dock will certainly be easier for those Feeding South Dakota trucks that come,” Gullickson said. The three organizations that deal with food insecurity get deliveries from Feeding South Dakota. “It’ll be nicer for them to be able to come and do one drop versus going to the different locations.”

The loading dock will help, since the organizations do not necessarily have loading docks in their current locations, meaning deliveries are left outside and staff has to bring them inside, she said.

Since United Way’s offices will be in the building, her staff can “serve as a front door” for the other entities when their staff is not present, Gullickson said.  

There is some flex space that she envisions will be used for Senior Commodities and for food deliveries. 

“If you build it, we will find reasons to use that building, and it’s nice to have a little bit of space to work with there, as we see what other needs come up in the community,” Gullickson said. 

Tom Squires of designArc Group said his business reached out to get an idea of the needs of the organizations that would be sharing the building. The Food Pantry needed a more central location, and having the building on First Lutheran’s site falls in line with the church’s beliefs and mission.

“We kind of just started growing the concept of this,” Squires said. Including the other entities puts them in a central location, which enables people who use more than one service and rely on the BATA bus for transportation to make “a one-stop shop” for efficiency. 

Nicholas Kummer of designArc Group said the design will give the tenants more room now and allow them to grow in the future. The flex space can change usage as needed in the future, he added.

“We were really trying to make this as efficient as possible with the least amount of corridors,” and as much usable space as possible, Kummer said. The church wanted the new building to work with the design of existing and surrounding structures, as well as traffic flow for patrons and deliveries. There’s a back entry for those who want privacy, he added.

Cost saving designs like LED lighting were used, too, Kummer added.

Council comments

“I’m really excited about this new facility and I appreciate the creativity that you all have used,” Councilor Nick Wendell said, asking what the cost of maintenance will be over time.

“It has morphed quite a bit,” Gullickson said of the facility. 

“It kind of just made sense that United Way having the professional staff (there full-time) would be the owner of the building.”

She expects community businesses will support their efforts. 

Councilor Patty Bacon asked about the building’s cost-saving design features.

Squires said they have accounted for the sustainable parts and considered the most efficient heating and cooling options.

Councilor Holly Tilton Byrne asked about the timeline for the grant proposal.

Meshke said they were working on the grant proposal now and expected to have it wrapped up by the end of the month and submitted to the state by July 4. Tentatively, he expected to have it ready to bid by this fall.

Kays said if it’s submitted by July 4, there’s still an environmental review to be done, as well as some other official things, to be done before getting bids.

“Looking at construction in 2022,” Kays said.

Tilton Byrne asked if the city has plans for the current Food Pantry, which is a city-owned building.

“Right now, we don’t. We’re really focused on this project and hopefully we obtain the grant,” City Manager Paul Briseno said. It would be at least a year before the new facility is fully functional, he said, adding the council would then consider the budget needs of demolishing and backfilling the old site. 

Options could include a parking lot or use it as part of the police department expansion, Briseno mentioned.

“There are a lot of opportunities that the council could consider in the future,” Briseno said.

Councilor Leah Brink thanked those who are part of the involved entities and those present at the meeting.

“I think a special thank you also goes to the congregation at the church there for making their land available for this project and it is something that I think the whole community can agree on and support, so it’s nice to see something like that,” Brink said.

Contact Jodelle Greiner at [email protected]

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