By Joe Morey
The LCO Tribal Governing Board (TGB) held a discussion with the Grants Department at their weekly meeting on Monday, Sept. 19, regarding the new apartment building being constructed on Round Lake School Road just north of the bike trail.
The plans call for a 40-unit building with one and two bedroom units mainly designed to attract and retain a professional workforce, which would include health center staff and other executives.
During the discussion, members of the TGB expressed how difficult it has been to fill certain positions at LCO due to a lack of housing opportunities. LCO Sec-Treasurer Tweed Shuman stated that many of the current executives were housed at the Sevenwinds Casino while they searched for housing.
Grants Department personnel shared with the TGB that there is a serious lack of mental health therapists at LCO and the main reason is the lack of housing.
“We can’t get people to relocate here because there is nowhere to live,” stated Jordan St. Germaine, LCO Grants Director. “Our community is in desperate need of therapists for our children. Currently, Bizhiki Wellness Center has only five therapists with only two of them certified to work with children.”
St. Germaine said the two therapists for children are overbooked. She said that’s why it’s so important to keep at least some of the new apartment building aimed at workforce housing.
The new apartment building will be constructed with American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds with construction set to begin any time now and be completed by September of 2023. The Grants Department informed the community that because it’s being built with ARPA funding, it is required there be no income limit.
The TGB said Section 8 could possibly be used for residency in the building. Sawyer County Section 8 would pay 30% of the rent for those who qualify based on their income limits. A rental rate per unit would be established as well to make the apartment qualify.
In July, Governor Tony Evers visited LCO to announce a $4.6 million dollar grant awarded to the Tribe from the Workforce Innovation Grant Program to be used for water infrastructure that will support a sewer and water extension project from the Giiwedin Community.
The grant will also help with any future housing communities along a loop from the Four Corners area to Hwy B, to the Sevenwinds Casino and back down Hwy K.
The aim of the grant award was to help the LCO Tribe provide affordable housing to support a growing demand for workers in the community.
“This housing project will create a variety of housing opportunities and will be situated to ensure residents have direct access to Tribal services, are close to area employers, and have transportation options that fit their needs, including public transportation routes, biking, and walking paths,” announced a press release from Governor Evers.