City Council creates business grant fund
By Wesley Gardner
The Lockhart City Council on Tuesday updated the city’s COVID-19 Recovery Loan Program, setting aside $25,000 to be given out as one-time grants to assist businesses within the city struggling due to restrictions imposed to fight the outbreak.
Originally, the program set aside $235,000 to provide one-time interest free loans to affected and eligible businesses that were intended to help the companies survive until a larger loan could be secured.
While that portion of the program remains unchanged, the addition of the grant will allow businesses to apply for up to $2,500 in funding that they won’t have to pay back.
The move comes on the heels of a recent program implemented by Caldwell County Community Services Foundation and Lockhart Chamber of Commerce that provided businesses throughout the county the opportunity to apply for grants of up to $2,500 from a pool of $50,000.
Lockhart Mayor Lew White said the funding would first be made available to businesses that hadn’t already received funding from either the city’s loan program or the county’s grant program.
“I think you ought to look at the amount of assistance [the businesses] got and you ought to fund the ones that didn’t get any help,” he said. “Kind of work your way from the bottom up.”
According to Lockhart Economic Development Corporation (EDC) Director Mike Kamerlander, the EDC has received 18 applications to date and has funded 12, with four still pending. If the four pending businesses are approved, the total amount of money disseminated will come out to $92,500.
Kamerlander noted the county’s grant program has received 59 applications, with 35 coming from businesses in Lockhart. 28 of those 35 were located in Lockhart’s Central Commercial Business district.
White noted that a grant program being funded by the city’s own loan program wouldn’t be a recurring event.
“It would be a one-time thing,” said White. “I want to be very careful to preserve the majority of the fund for any future loans, because this may not be going away anytime soon.”
District 2 Councilmember Kara McGregor said that while she supported the initiative, she questioned the effectiveness of handing out smaller grants.
“I think the goal of a grant would be to help a business stay open and make it to other side,” said McGregor. “I think there’s a danger in giving too little in that we give a grant that’s nonrepayable and they fail anyway.
“There’s a balance there somewhere. I don’t know what the number it, but that’s a concern for me.”
At-Large Councilmember Brad Westmoreland said regardless of the size of the grants, there were businesses in desperate need of assistance now.
“I would not wait on this,” Westmoreland said, noting some area businesses have had to wait 30 days to receive loans administered by the Small Business Administration. “The time is now. I think the quicker we do this, the better.”
Councilmembers ultimately agreed to set aside the $25,000 for the grant program.
In other business, councilmembers approved an amendment increasing the cost of the first phase of the Town Branch Trail project by roughly $19,800, bringing the total cost of the project to just over $233,000.
Public Works Director Sean Kelley said the increase was required to comply with Texas Accessibility Standards.
According to Kelley, the driveway and loading dock entrances at Kruez Market had slopes that were too steep where the trail would be crossing, requiring staff to demolish and repour them to meet guidelines established by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Once completed, the project will consist of a 10-foot-wide, 2,100-foot hike/bike trail in City Park.
The trail is being partially funded through a grant received from the St. David’s Foundation that aims to help get communities more active. The grant will pay for $163,000 of the project.
The first phase of the trail a projected completion date of June 2020. The second phase of construction — also funded in part by a grant from the St. David’s Foundation — will involve the installation of a trail that would provide an eastern pedestrian park entrance.