Dubuque council OKs agreement tied to sports wagering, business grant program, community garden

Dubuque City Council members took the following notable action at their regular meeting on Monday night.

Casino agreement

Action: Council members voted, 7-0, to approve an amendment to the city’s lease agreement with Dubuque Racing Association that incorporates money wagered via sports betting into payments.

Background: The lease relates to Q Casino and Hotel, which sits on city land. The lease agreement with the DRA, the nonprofit license holder for both Dubuque casinos, already states that the association will pay monthly rent equal to 1% of gross receipts from all gambling games and 4.8% of table game adjusted gross receipts at Q Casino. The amended agreement now also requires the association to pay 0.5% of the money wagered on sports through that casino.

What’s next: The sports betting payments to the city retroactively go back to Jan. 1, 2020. In a memo to council members, City Manager Mike Van Milligen estimated that the city will receive an additional $80,708 in fiscal year 2022 via the amendment.

Business grant program

Action: Council members voted, 7-0, to approve a program designed to assist businesses operated by low- and moderate-income owners.

Background: In late 2017, the city’s Community Development Advisory Commission approved allocating $150,000 for a program that provided microloans to entrepreneurs and budding businesses in the city, with prioritization given to the city’s minority population.

Three microloans were approved, each totaling $35,000, for local business startups, leaving $45,000 remaining in the fund. In December 2019, the commission voted to establish a program that provided $1,500 business assistance stipends for income-eligible residents looking to start a business. That stipend was later increased to $3,500. However, the program was put on hold following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jill Conners, economic development director for the city, recommended the city use the remaining $34,370 in the fund to provide $3,500 grants to currently existing businesses owned by low- and moderate-income residents.

What’s next: The grant program will be administered by the nonprofit Fountain of Youth. Grant recipients will be required to attend professional development sessions for two months. Business owners can begin applying today. More information can be found at https://bit.ly/3jTyFOD.

Valentine Park community garden

Action: Council members voted, 7-0, to approve allowing a group of volunteers to develop a community garden at Valentine Park, 860 Valentine Drive.

Background: The community garden was proposed in September to the city’s Park and Recreation Commission, which later recommended its approval after finding no opposition from residents living nearby. The garden will be located in the northern section of the park and will feature vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers. Garden plot assignments will be issued seasonally to residents.

What’s next: City documents state community organizers intend to start fundraising, with plans to start the garden this spring.