Litchfield City Council tentatively approved a request from the Heritage Preservation Commission to pursue a federal grant that could provide up to $700,000 for downtown improvements.

The vote Monday allows City Council member and HPC representative Darlene Kotelnicki to work with the Meeker County Economic Development Authority to determine if the grant is the right fit for the city. Once facts have been gathered, Kotelnicki will report back to the City Council in December for final approval of the grant-writing process.

“It takes a lot of work,” Kotelnicki told her fellow council members. “It’s a federal grant (and) will take many hours. I’m not willing to put the time in (to write the grant) until I know the council is going to pass it.”

Kotelnicki said that HPC members thought the grant could be used to encourage renovation of second-floor residential spaces above businesses in the historic area of downtown.

“We just feel, with the housing crisis what it is, this would be a good thing for Litchfield,” she said.

However, the grant could be used in other ways, Kotelnicki said. Created in 2018, the Historic Revitalization Subgrant Program “supports the rehabilitation of historic properties and fosters economic development of rural communities,” according to Historic Preservation Fund materials.

The program’s first grant recipients were announced earlier this year, with two recipients being cities smaller than Litchfield, according to Kotelnicki. Grant amounts range from $100,000 to $700,000.

Council member Ron Dingmann, acting as mayor in absence of Mayor Keith Johnson Monday, asked that Kotelnicki work with Meeker EDA, because “I’m concerned with burdening the (city) administration.

On the same downtown improvement theme, the City Council approved two certificates of appropriateness Monday – one for the Grand Army of the Republic Hall at 308 Marshall Ave. N., and the other for property at 25 Second St. W., which will house Rusty Wood Creations.

The G.A.R. Hall’s application, which was supported by the Historic Preservation Commission, was to replace the building’s front exterior door and frame with a new treated wood door and framing. Replacement of the 3-foot by 8-foot door also received approval from the state Department of Administration, which said the work would meet requirements for the building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Rusty Wood Creations application said its work would include installation of a sign and period-appropriate lighting above the transom. The building was constructed in 1923 and originally housed a general merchandise store known as “Feed Ole.” The building also has been home to a grocery store, paint and decorating business, an auto parts store, video store, and flooring store.

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