HUMBOLDT — Humboldt council members approved investing $20,000 with Amy and Scott Welch to put toward the renovation of Our Market, their up-and-coming grocery store that will partner with their butcher shop.
“We’ll recoup that money in a year,” predicted Nobby Davis, mayor of Humboldt, at Monday’s council meeting.
Scott Welch said the city could expect to net $31,000 a year and the county $22,000 a year in sales tax revenues, “if we meet our goals.”
The Welches did not request a specific amount of funds Monday evening, but rather explained their situation, which is that “we are rather short of funds” when it comes to bringing the former Moon’s Market up to snuff. The grocery has sat vacant for 21 months.
“We’re having some trouble on the grocery side,” Amy Welch said, noting some expenses have caught them by surprise, including the need for an updated point of sale system, electrical and sprinkler systems.
The couple said they are currently putting all of their efforts into the butcher shop side of the operation in order to catch the current deer hunting season, “to help us get some money rolling into the store.”
Amy Welch ticked off items completed, including insulation, meat hanging racks, some flooring, Sheetrock and painting.
“I jack-hammered all the tile out of the old bathrooms over the weekend,” she said, admitting she was “a little sore today.”
As for the grocery, “we don’t have a ton of things left to do,” she said. The store’s sprinkling system should be installed in the coming days.
“We’re getting there.”
The Welches said they are about $140,000 short of needed funds.
So far, they have attracted two grants; a SPARK grant for $100,000 to be used for the butcher shop, and $20,000 from HUGRO, a local development group.
Last week, the Welches approached Allen County commissioners for a grant of $100,000. Only Commissioner Jerry Daniels of Humboldt appeared enthusiastic about the request. Commissioners Bruce Symes and Bill King queried what Humboldt had put forward to the project.
Cole Herder, Humboldt administrator, noted that other communities have either invested in their grocery stores or outright purchased them, such as Erie and St. Paul.
“I’m just thankful we don’t have to purchase and run a store and that we have private individuals who want to do that,” he said.
The Welches estimate they will hire about a dozen employees, with four to six being part-time.
Monarch owns the building and is working out a lease-to-own arrangement with the Welches.
Davis said he favored the request because “it keeps the money right here in our community.”
The motion passed unanimously.
MATT KORTE requested Humboldt rope off the inside lanes of its square on Nov. 27 to allow for the traditional Bike Around the Square event that kicks of the Christmas season. The lights around the square will be turned on that evening and holiday music will be played from 5 to 7 p.m.
Humboldt is eschewing visits with Santa this year in mind of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In other COVID-related news, Police Chief Shannon Moore’s test for the coronavirus came back negative, Herder said. On Friday, Moore reported sick. Two others in her department have contracted the virus.
Allen County currently has 74 active cases, up from 61 reported on Thursday.
SEVERAL city employees were recognized Monday. City Clerk Staci Johnson received an award designating her a certified municipal clerk from the City Clerks and Municipal Finance Officers Association. Over the past four years Johnson has completed 120 hours of education, including attending statewide conferences to learn all the responsibilities of the position.
Mayor Davis received a Small Town America Civic Award for being in the Top 100 Outstanding Civic Volunteers.
And those with the city or its fire department were recognized for their years of service, including Scott Lucke, 15 years, HFD; Jeff Marquez, 15 years, city; Steven Lucke, 20 years, HFD; Lora Hunt, 20 years, city; Roger Vincent, 30 years, city, and Eddie Harner, 45 years, city. Harner also received a certificate from the Kansas League of Municipalities.
“Eddie normally would be in Topeka to receive this reward, but they didn’t have a banquet this year,” said Herder. “He’s one of nine in the state to receive such recognition.”
Harner works as a janitor with the city.