ATWATER -- A $90,000 matching grant that would help fund renovations at the historic Hotel Atwater was given preliminary approval Thursday by the Minnesota Historical Society.
Final approval could come at the end of the month.
Atwater City Councilmen Shane Hagstrom and Mark Olson were at the State Capitol on Thursday to testify before the grant review committee. Hagstrom said he was given about three minutes to speak about the project, which the Historical Society staff had recommended for approval.
The committee was "very impressed with the building," he said. Different engineers have stated there is no structural damage to the building.
He was notified later in the day the committee had unofficially approved the grant request.
The city is seeking the grant to refurbish the hotel to house the city office, library and two-person Police Department. The grant money is tagged for repairing the roof, windows and exterior brick tuckpointing.
Getting the grant is crucial to the project. "And my gosh, we almost have it," said Hagstrom, who took a day off from his job as a teacher for the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School District to testify at the Capitol.
"Excellent," said Mayor Bruce Baker, when informed that the city was another step closer to getting the grant.
"That's great if we got it," he said. "Now we can decide what we're going to do."
News about the grant Thursday provided the good news balance to sobering information the council received Wednesday night about the potential cost of completing the project. A metro engineer who read about the project in a previous West Central Tribune article and has worked on similar projects told the council the project could cost about $1.1 million.
If that's the case, it will take more than one grant to get the work done, Baker said.
Even with the $90,000 grant and the city's match, along with $500,000 in reserves, Baker said it may not be enough to get the work done if the price tag is more than one million dollars.
"We don't have that in our pocket," he said.
Because there may not be enough space in the hotel to house all three entities, an addition would likely be required, said Baker, which is part of the high-end estimate.
Hagstrom said getting the Historical Society grant is "one step of many steps" and the council will "have to figure the rest out."
After getting a price on how much the project with "truly cost," the city will have to explore different funding mechanisms. Hearing the high estimate Wednesday "was a lump-in-your-throat kind of a deal," Hagstrom said.
The city could seek additional grants from the Minnesota Historical Society.
Hagstrom said he expects the city will hold a public meeting to see what residents want to do.
"We want people's input," he said. "That's what it'll take to get this project going -- people working together."