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‘More than just the basics’: Grand Forks' beautification funds aesthetics, from holiday lights to giant heads

Four high students stroll past the Artwise 4 Kids sculpture outside Grand Forks City Hall. (Darren Gibbins / special to the Herald)1 / 2
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Whether it’s colorful landscaping downtown or sparkly holiday lights in the winter, results of Grand Forks’ beautification fund can be seen throughout the city.

The city fund, which comes from sales tax, is meant for projects the public can enjoy, like public art or landscaping, said Meredith Richards, deputy director of the city’s Urban Development office, which operates the beautification fund. The projects are often ones that the city wants to invest in, but they don’t fit into any other city budget, she said.

“It’s just a nice source of funds to do those kinds of maybe not absolutely necessary projects, but certainly welcome and positive projects that you don’t have any other source of funding for,” she said.

Other visible examples of where the fund’s money has gone include the eagle statue outside of the police station, clean-up efforts on Gateway Drive and a large, colorful statue of a human head recently put in front of City Hall.

“That was probably the most fun manifestation of this fund,” Richards said, referring to the head statue, which she hopes to have filled with plants when the weather warms up.

Budgeting

About $120,000 is allocated to the beautification fund each year, and money not spent in the previous year carries over, Richards said.

In Urban Development’s 2014 budget, the majority of the $445,000 in funds is dedicated to undetermined projects downtown and on 42nd Street.

Along with the annual expense of downtown landscaping and holiday lighting, there is $250,000 set aside for “downtown infrastructure,” or unspecified improvements to downtown, Richards said.

There is also $150,000 set aside for the 42nd Street Arts Project and $11,500 set aside for management of any public art purchased through that project, Richards said. The 42nd Street funds have not yet been released to that project, pending a memorandum of understanding requested by City Council before it considers approval, she said.

Essentially any person or group in the community could apply for beautification funds, but the city will likely assign the funds to a group that is well-organized and has maybe already accumulated private funds, as the Downtown Development Association and the 42nd Street corridor supporters did, Richards said.

Beautification

The city’s beautification funds used to be distributed through a re-granting program, in which various organizations would competitively apply for the funds, Richards said.

About five to 10 years ago, the city switched away from the re-granting program to the system it has now, with Urban Development managing the funds and project proposals, she said.

Mayor Mike Brown said he feels strongly that beautification is an important part of the quality of life in Grand Forks.

“You want to have an attractive community,” and public art and other beautification projects help with that, he said.

“It’s more than just the basics,” Brown said. “It elevates your mood.”

Take our readers survey

Grand Forks’ beautification fund is money that residents can apply for to make their town nicer. What would you use the fund for?

Tell us your ideas by emailing news@gfherald.com using the subject line “beautification fund.” If we get enough submissions, we’ll publish them in a future story.

Charly Haley
Charly Haley covers city government for the Grand Forks Herald. As night reporter, she also has many general assignments. Before working at the Herald, she was a reporter at the Jamestown Sun and interned at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, Detroit Lakes Newspapers and the St. Cloud Times. Haley is a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead, and her hometown is Sartell, Minn.
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