City gives funds for transitional housing

$7,000 will help finance transitional home for people who have mental illness

BROOKINGS – The Brookings City Council voted to give $7,000 to the Brookings Empowerment Project to help the organization start a transitional house for people who have mental illness.

An amendment was added that the funds would be transferred after the BEP obtained memorandums of understanding with service providers who will assist the tenants. The amendment and amended motion to give the BEP the $7,000 passed 6-0 with Councilor Dan Hansen abstaining because he’s on BEP’s board of directors.

Late last year, members of BEP spoke to the council about how hard it was to find housing for adult family members who were coming out of in-patient facilities and weren’t quite ready to jump back into society. One of the answers, they feel, is transitional housing, but there is none in Brookings. Some patients were going to Huron and others as far away as Florida. 

The local transitional house would have a maximum of six women living there. They would be referred by Avera in Sioux Falls or the Human Services Center in Yankton. Only those with non-violent, non-criminal behavior would be accepted. They could stay a maximum of 12 months while they adjust and get help from East Central Behavioral Center and other agencies that specialize in mental health.

The BEP figures it needs $35,000 to fund the project initially. 

Doug O’Neill, a member of BEP, answered questions Tuesday for the council.

Councilor Mary Kidwiler asked if all the legal paperwork was in place, and O’Neill said they are still working on it; he expects the picture will be clearer after a meeting on Thursday. He added organizers are getting a lot of encouragement from people in the mental health industry who are excited about the project.

Kidwiler also asked if they had done fundraising, adding she’s heard from people who have mental illnesses in their families and want to help.

O’Neill said a rummage sale is planned for the spring, and they plan to raise money in other ways, too.

“People want it, they just don’t know how to (get it off the ground),” O’Neill said.

Councilor Holly Tilton Byrne asked when they expected to be ready for the first tenants.

The group is hoping by summer, but BEP wants to take its time and do it right, so the timeline can change, O’Neill said.

Councilor Nick Wendell asked what happens to the city’s $7,000 if BEP can’t raise the rest of the money. O’Neill said they’ll find the money somewhere because they are committed. 

“If it takes us another year, it takes us another year,” he said.

Councilor Patty Bacon asked whether they had signed papers for the home itself. O’Neill said the owner is keeping the home available for them for now.

Bacon asked if the city’s $7,000 would secure the use of the facility for BEP, but O’Neill said he didn’t have that information.

The amendment was approved and then the amended motion was approved to give BEP $7,000 when BEP has finalized the paperwork with the other agencies.

In other business Tuesday, the council approved extending the lease agreement for a communications tower with Crown Castle International Corporation. The original lease was signed in November 2006 and ran for 25 years. Crown Castle wanted to extend the lease to 2057. 

The tower is in Bob Shelden Field, and Crown Castle wants the extension to make it easier to bring in other carriers; now AT&T is the only one, said Kevin Catlin, assistant city manager.

A longer lease could help secure other telecommunications companies with long-term contracts, City Manager Jeff Weldon explained.

The city renegotiated financial terms of the lease. Crown Castle proposed a 20 percent revenue share of all new tenants they sign onto the tower. The city will receive a signing bonus of $7,500 upon approval of the supporting resolution. Crown Castle has agreed to accelerate the rent model to reflect $15,000 for year 2018, as opposed to the $13,687 that the city would have received. The lease will continue with a 3 percent escalation model each year until 2057, according to an attachment to the agenda available on the city’s website.

The total difference in rent from the current lease and the proposed amended lease is $142,114 over a 39-year term. Castle Crown is expecting the city to gain approximately $1,200 per month from entering into the new agreement. With 39 years left on the lease, if the amendment is signed, the city could expect to receive an additional $561,600 over the term of the lease. Total difference until 2057 is $701,714, according to the attachment.

The council also viewed the winning poster entries of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Contest and heard the winning students read their essays. 

Contact Jodelle Greiner at [email protected].