Story County Supervisor Lauris Olson spoke to Nevada City Council members at their June 25 meeting about a pilot program she is hoping can be introduced in Story County.


While other programs are focused on keeping people in their homes, Olson said her program would be focused on “adding housing stock.”


She made it clear to the council that her fellow two supervisors, Rick Sanders and Marty Chitty, are on board with her ability to go out and speak about this potential program and see what kind of interest communities have, but at this time, nothing has been approved.


The purpose of the Story County New Construction and Substantial Rehabilitation Housing Grant pilot program, as stated in a handout Olson presented, is to provide grants to governmental, not-for-profit and charitable groups, alone or in partnership with other sources of funding, to increase the number of housing units in Story County by reducing overall costs of construction, conversion, renovation and, in the case of mobile/modular homes, initial acquisition and siting of units that are new to the county.


The pilot program would seek to provide financial assistance for up to 24 dwelling units, by either building new units, converting non-residential property into units, building new or expanding existing mobile home and modular park infrastructure, filling spaces in consistently under-utilized existing mobile home and modular parks or rehabilitating vacant units (sitting empty at least six months).


Preference would be given to applications that add housing in communities with populations under 8,000 and/or in the unincorporated areas of the county.


A committee at the county level has been formed, Olson stated, and now she’s coming out to talk to communities about their interest in such a pilot program. She said the goal would be to get some quick turn-around, getting new housing units ready in 12 months.


She thinks the program is very important for school districts, because, she said, “for school districts, every child counts,” especially when it comes to state funding.


Olson was leaving the council members with a questionnaire that would ask for feedback, comments, critiques, etc., either from individual council members or the council as a group. Her goal is to collect all communities’ feedback by early August.


Council members decided they would each put down their initial individual thoughts and email those to City Administrator Matt Mardesen, then they would have a work session to go over everyone’s thoughts and hopefully prepare one set of answers to give back to Olson.


“It might have more impact if it’s a united message,” said Mayor Brett Barker.


Other items of interest from the June 25 council meeting:


• The city knows that the railroad will be doing some crossing repairs this year, and Councilman Luke Spence asked if the crossing at Second Street (north tracks) could possibly have some sidewalk/pedestrian crossings added with that project. While everyone agreed that a safe pedestrian crossing is something that is desirable, the project at this time doesn’t include that, and it would be up to the city to tackle that type of addition.


The discussion of sidewalks brought forth another discussion of whether the city should put sidewalks across some properties, where there aren’t any and walking paths have been created. Also, they talked about whether sidewalks should be added to some neighborhoods, which could be either a city-funded project or a shared expense with property owners.


A few years back, when streets were torn up in the “new addition,” which is what the area south of Gates Hall is still commonly referred to, Shawn Cole, building and zoning official, said most residents didn’t have an interest in putting in sidewalks.


First off, adding sidewalks means tearing up some of their yard. Second, there is added expense to property owners of maintaining it, especially in the winter when shoveling sidewalks on your property is mandated by city code.


Back to the addition of sidewalk or pedestrian crossings around the Second Street railroad tracks, council members agreed it’s something the city could definitely look into.


It was also noted that another round of the sidewalk project in Nevada — improvements to existing sidewalks throughout town — will soon begin, with sidewalks being marked.


• City Engineer Larry Stevens gave an update that the 19th Street, South B Avenue four-way stop plans are in process and a concept is soon to be forwarded to the DOT.


Stevens also announced that the city is hoping for a meeting with downtown property/business owners in the third week of July, to start discussions about the massive downtown improvements project that will be taking place in the next couple years. “This will be a public meeting on … what’s coming and what to expect,” he said.


• The council approved a Neighborhood Improvement Incentive Program application from Mike Kinyon for demolition of property at 1228 10th St. in the amount of $6,976.25. The Council was advised that Shawn Cole, zoning official, had verified the demo of the house and garage were complete and the lot has been graded level. The amount awarded represents 50 percent of the total expense.


• It was noted that with all the rain, weeds and other plants are growing quickly, as well as other issues. The city has talked about coming up with a button on its website for people to turn in quick comments about concerns when something is affecting visibility or travel conditions, so it can be looked at and handled by city staff.


• Public Works Director Mike Neal said the weather and all the rain has been the main thing his department has dealt with over recent weeks. He said there have been continued problems in the Ninth Street and H Avenue, which is what happens, he said, when a 150-year infrastructure is trying to keep up with added concrete in parking lots. Other projects and repairs, he said, are behind due to rain. “Mother Nature is not cooperating.”