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Bellevue plans relief funds for small portion of businesses

By John McCracken

BELLEVUE – The Village of Bellevue plans to make available a portion of $1.5 million in federal funds for small businesses along a road less than a mile long.

Businesses along Steffens Court will soon be able to apply for grant funding for COVID-19 relief.

On Wednesday, April 14, the village board unanimously approved $35,000 of American Rescue Plan funds for the creation of a grant program to assist Steffens Court businesses with upwards of $5,000 in relief available per business.

This strip of businesses was selected because of not only the pandemic, but also road resurfacing planned for 2022.

Because the road has just one entry and exit point, village staff are worried small businesses along it would be hit extra hard.

“It’s a small targeted area,” said Community Development Director Andrew Vissers, “It’s unique because of this back-to-back issue.”

Eligible relief funds recipients would have to be locally owned, independent businesses in operation since at least March 2020.

Vissers said chains such as Menards and Festival Foods, both on Steffens Court, would not qualify for the grants because they are better equipped to handle and recover from a road construction project.

Moreover, Vissers said home improvement and grocery stores were considered essential and remained open throughout the pandemic.

The village received roughly $1.5 million in assistance to support loss in revenue due to the pandemic, premium pay for frontline workers, funds for community organizations and nonprofits, and infrastructure investments in water, sewer and broadband.

Village Administrator Diane Wessel said the village isn’t eligible for many of the funding requirements such as premium pay, loss in tourism revenue, and overall village revenue loss.

Unlike larger municipalities in the region, the Village of Bellevue didn’t experience large revenue drops with many departments, such as the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department, minimizing expenses throughout the last year.

One long-term project the village plans to tackle includes Bellevue’s spotty internet service.

“We know there are areas in Bellevue and around Brown County that have poor broadband,” said Wessel.

The village will receive the first allotment of funds, around $750,000, by the end of April with the remaining funds set to arrive next year.

The village has until 2024 to report on the funds used, but wanted to take action sooner than later.

“I think any project we take on has to be something we can do right away,” said Village President Steve Soukup.

Despite unanimous approval of the small business funding mechanism, one board member said receiving the funds overall would burden the village in the long run.

“You realize it will cost us about $4 million to pay it back,” said trustee Dave Kaster.

Senior care boom

A new senior-living facility is coming to Bellevue off of the interchange of Manitowoc Road and Interstate 43.

A 73,000-square-foot facility on Servant Way suited with memory care and assisted living apartments received unanimous approval from the village board.

“Bellevue, and this site specifically, is a great place for us,” said Lucas Larson, primary developer from the Minneapolis-based Galahad Development company.

This new development comes alongside other expanded additions of care facilities in the village.

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