City receives planning grant; public will have spending, planning input

By Bonnie Culverhouse

Thanks to a grant for $135,000, City of Minden is moving forward with a plan that will hopefully move the city forward even more.

The city has received Strategic Planning Program funds, which were awarded by Delta Regional Authority (DRA) in July. And while there is nothing set in stone, that plan could envision downtown housing and unique businesses.

Minden Mayor Nick Cox said Alex Holland is the city’s point of contact for the no-match grant.

Holland is a consultant who once worked with Delta Regional Authority (DRA) and is aware of their funds for planning programs.

Cox said he, along with City Councilmen Carlton (Buddy) Myles and Andy Pendergrass met Holland during a Louisiana Municipal Association (LMA) meeting early last spring.

“Alex emailed us after the meeting and told us about a grant opportunity,” Cox said. “It was the same grant West Monroe got, which was $99,000 through the Rural Business Development Grant and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”

West Monroe’s grant funds netted a plan that includes streetscapes, a food hall-type restaurant, distillery/brewery and downtown housing.

An exact grant would’ve meant a 10 percent match for the City of Minden, and the time to apply was short, he said. “So we passed on that one.”

Two months later, Holland contacted Cox again and told him about a new DRA grant that required no matching funds. It helps communities identify and development strategic plans to address issues such as infrastructure, industry growth, workforce pipelines and small business development.

The mayor pointed out that while Minden’s Strategic Planning Program will not look the same as West Monroe, it may have a similarity or two.

“We have several buildings downtown that would be very conducive to living space conversions,” he said. “The upstairs on some of them will definitely require repairs and renovations, but they are doable.”

The council gave Cox permission to apply for the grant with Holland’s help. Any expenses she incurs while acting on the city’s behalf will be covered by the grant, therefore costing the City of Minden zero dollars.

“Andy and Buddy have worked really hard with me on this,” Cox said. “They have been key players and have invested a lot of time.”

The next step in the plan is to form a steering committee and hold community meetings in order to learn what the citizens of Minden would like to see happen with the funds.

“Shortly, I would like to see us have the steering committee of about 15 people from around the community in place,” said Cox. “Then by the end of September, we will have meetings for public input.”