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Resolution would support a five-year commitment by Norwich to NCDC

By Claire Bessette

Publication: The Day

Published May 04. 2013 4:00AM

Norwich - The City Council Monday will be asked to reaffirm its relationship with the Norwich Community Development Corp. but with a new structure that calls for five years of committed funding by the city and a defined set of services and expected accomplishments.

As part of a busy agenda Monday that includes setting a preliminary 2013-14 budget, the council will vote on a resolution that would support funding for NCDC over the next five years.

NCDC requested the five-year commitment and last week submitted a draft "scope of services" to the council that would give the agency specific tasks and goals for economic development, marketing and promotion of city events from 2013 through 2018.

The city in recent years has given $150,000 per year to NCDC as the city's economic development agency. But in the coming year, that funding would be altered dramatically. City Manager Alan Bergren proposed to give the agency $50,000 in operating money and $100,000 in funding restricted to work on capital projects.

Mayor Peter Nystrom said the change was prompted by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's shift of major municipal aid to restricted capital improvements funding. Nystrom supported the funding change, saying it would focus on work on physical construction, redevelopment and expansion projects and would give the city better accountability of the agency's work.

The last city-owned construction project by NCDC was the $22 million Norwich Transportation Center completed last year. NCDC could use the new capital funding for work on private building projects, Nystrom said. For example, NCDC is working with Onekey LLC to help secure financing to renovate the Ponemah Mill in Taftville and also has been meeting with a developer interested in taking over a foreclosed hotel project on Route 82 off Interstate 395.

NCDC marketing efforts would not qualify for the capital portion of the budget.

The scope of services proposal outlines many of NCDC's current activities to attract new businesses, help current businesses assess their needs for financing, expansion or utilities.

The proposal contains a provision in which the city could add new duties or activities to NCDC with compensation for that work determined on a case-by-case basis.

NCDC is expected to work out a separate scope of services with Norwich Public Utilities, which also has provided NCDC with $150,000 per year for its operating budget.

Also on the council agenda, aldermen will be asked to restructure the three programs in the city's downtown revitalization package by taking $500,000 from a revolving loan fund and moving it into the popular lease rebate program. No revolving loans have been approved, while nearly all of the initial $500,000 in the lease rebate program has been committed to businesses.

NCDC President Robert Mills said the loan program has had difficulties typical of risky businesses, including lack of ability to qualify for loans and unattractive interest rates for those loans.

Nystrom said the growing popularity of the lease rebate program shows that new and existing businesses are interested in downtown Norwich.

"That's a great statement for the retention of businesses downtown," Nystrom said.

c.bessette@theday.com

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Who: City Council
What: 7:30 p.m. Monday
Where: Council Chambers, City Hall

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