Council to Vote Monday on Funding for Kozy, Federal Funding for Permanent Warming, Hygiene Center

Resolutions call for money set aside for the Pastoret Terrace, and for CARES Act funding to be used for the city's first permanent warming and hygiene center.

DULUTH, Minn.- Two big issues will be brought to Duluth City Council Monday night — DEDA’s proposal to set aside funding for maintenance of the condemned Kozy Bar and Apartment Building, and a resolution for a permanent warming shelter and hygiene facility for Duluth’s homeless.

The issue surrounding the historic Pastoret Terrace on East First Street, better known as the former Kozy, has flared up most recently, after a fire again ravaged the blighted property on Monday the 2nd.

“I think you would find that most councilors believe it’s just unfortunate this whole thing that we got to this point,” Councilor At Large Arik Forsman told FOX 21 Sunday.

After several fires over the past decade the previous week’s blaze collapsed the roof — its questionable structural integrity further dissuading firefighters from entering the building.

“We had this building of its historic nature that ended up in the condition it was in and to see it continue to struggle with these fires is really too bad,” said Forsman.

The Duluth Economic Development Authority (DEDA), which owns the building, was mandated by the Minnesota Court of Appeals to maintain the building between legal battles with former owner Eric Ringsred — who doesn’t want it torn down.

According to Councilor Forsman, unless the district court interprets that ruling and comes back with specific instructions for the city, or a settlement is reached, “the City Council is not approving one cent to go into the Pastoret Terrace unless one of those two things happen.”

Meanwhile, also on the Council’s docket is a new resolution brought forth by Council Vice President Renee Van Nett and Councilor Roz Randorf addressing homelessness in Duluth.

“We want to create a multi-year solution that will not only create a warming center but that needed hygiene facility, the 24/7 hygiene facilities,” said Third District Councilor Randorf Sunday.

“Because what happens every year, City Administration has to kind of scramble, it’s harder and harder to find warming facilities every year, because there’s not, like, a bunch of empty buildings all over town not being used,” she said.

Randorf and Van Nett call for up to $400,000 of the city’s roughly $1.3 million federal CARES Act funding to use on an existing place.

“This CARES Act funding cannot be used for capital purchase so we can’t go ‘ok, let’s find a building and purchase a building,’ no it has to be already within our coffers,” said Randorf.

So far the ones at the top of the list, Randorf said, being the Lincoln Park Community Center or the second floor of the Damiano Center.

“Either city-owned or agency owned, a building of CHUM’s, of Damiano’s, of HRA’s, so it has to be an existing building and there’s not a lot of those,” she said.

While homelessness has been a problem for years Randorf said impacts of the pandemic, and its continuance into the winter, have caused people to push it more to the forefront.

“Two weeks ago right here, tomorrow evening, was a big rally,” she said of the recent rally where upwards of 50 tents were pitched on City Hall lawns to bring attention and urgency to the amount of people on the streets.

“And we heard the need and loud and clear,” said the Third District Councilor.

Randorf said she is confident in this diverse City Council passing the resolution. “We are all linked arms on this,” she said.

“We come from different vantage points of view but the one thing we all say is is that as a community we have to make sure we have housing for our people,” said Randorf. “Right now a lot of what we’re doing is we’re battling symptoms.”

Although passage of the resolution won’t be a rapid-release remedy for the symptoms. “This will be months, this isn’t going to be something that happens now or right away,” the Councilor said.

If approved the city must apply to avert that funding, as well as get it cleared by various organizations on the city, state and federal level.

“A piece of this resolution is also asking the city to really lean into tapping into state and federal funding so we can have a permanent solution to this,” Randorf said.

A discussion and a city-wide issue that both Councilors Randorf and Forsman say need to be addressed.

“The city, we don’t have the resources to be able to do everything we want,” said Forsman.

“We depend on the state and the federal government to be able to step up and provide some resources for folks that are struggling but this is one thing I think the city can do that is gonna be really positive for folks,” he said.

“This is a Duluth problem,” said Randorf.

“When the most vulnerable population in Duluth have nowhere to stay in the evening, when they’re living in vinyl tents and we keep moving or having to evict them, this problem affects all of us,” she said, “and Duluth is compassionate.”

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