MAQUOKETA, Iowa — The City of Maquoketa has received an $85,000 forgivable loan from the Iowa Department of Economic Development to help clean up debris from last year’s downtown fire —  hopefully by this summer.

 Fire destroyed three buildings and damaged two others during a major fire on Main Street in January 2008.

The forgivable loan comes from the Iowa Brownfield Redevelopment Program, according to a letter from agency director Michael Tramontina.

The city will not receive the money until a contract has been signed for the cleanup. The city will be reimbursed for costs involved in the cleanup, according to the letter.

City Manager Brian Wagner said a second state grant from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is likely to be awarded for $25,000. The city has received verbal confirmation of the award, but no official documents.

The city also hopes to secure a $200,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency by April or May.

The city received assurances from the downtown business owners that $103,250 in cleanup money will be available from their insurance companies. Part of the requirements for the grants is that the property owners give their land to the city.

Wagner said the city has not sent out a request for bids for the cleanup. The city manager said previous estimates were more than $300,000 because the DNR said there is asbestos on the site, requiring a certified asbestos cleanup.

Mayor Tom Messerli said he has contacted Timber City Development Corp. and the Jackson County Revolving Loan Fund committee to seek a loan for the cleanup if the EPA grant does not come through. He said the city would pay the interest on the loans, then repay them when the properties are sold.

The mayor said he wants to see the cleanup completed by summer.

Sen. Roger Stewart, D-Preston, called the grant “an important step in Maquoketa’s rebuilding.

“This new financial award will start the process in restoring downtown Maquoketa and will provide greater opportunities for local business growth,” Stewart said.


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