City has $100,000 in unused 2010 CDBG fundsPublished 9:16pm Monday, March 12, 2012
Niles has more than $100,000 in unused federal Community Development Block Grant funding from fiscal year 2010 that must be spent in less than two months or risk losing it.
During a city council committee of the whole meeting Monday night to discuss budgeting the 2012 CDBG funds, the council learned $105,700 of its $408,500 in 2010 CDBG funding hasn’t been used.
In order to comply with federal regulations, the city must spend at least $50,000 of it by May 2 or it could lose it.
City Administrator Ric Huff recommended to the council that about $104,000 of the unspent money be used to make 13 city sidewalk intersections handicap accessible. Currently, sidewalk intersections don’t have curb ramps for people in wheelchairs.
“We’ve all seen people in wheelchairs in the street, and we wonder why. It’s because they have to,” said Community Development Director Juan Ganum. “This project is needed in Niles. Lives will improve because of it.
Facing a time crunch, the city council will vote at an upcoming special meeting on whether to approve Huff’s recommendation for the unused dollars.
During discussion of the 2012 CDBG budget plan, the council received a recommended budget from the Community Development Citizens Committee, a group of residents tasked with helping guide the city council in how to spend the money.
Council member Scott Clark took issue with several of the recommendations, including spending $15,000 on fitness stations on the Riverfront Trail, $10,000 on the Niles Main Street business incubator project and $10,000 on the Niles Community Gardens and worm farm project.
Clark voiced he would rather see that money spent on expanding the Homeowners Assistance Program, which assists low to moderate income homeowners with home repairs. He also suggested some of the funding go to the Salvation Army to help battle homelessness in the city.
“So you want to take from the citizens and give it to people who are running on the trail and growing worms? Sounds like a good idea,” Clark said sarcastically.
“This whole CDBG thing has become financing for pet projects,” he said.
Mayor Mike McCauslin also questioned whether the city should continue helping fund the community gardens project given that it was originally agreed the city would help launch the project, not sustain it.
The city must submit its 2012 budget plan to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development by May 15 in order to receive the funding this year, which amounts to $262,000. The city will review the budget plan at its next meeting with a public hearing for citizens’ comments on the budget set for April 9.
The city of Niles qualifies for CDBG funding as an “entitlement community,” based on its aging housing stock and high level of poverty.
Don’t let it go to waste
The city of Niles has more than $100,000 in unused federal Community Development Block Grant funding from fiscal year 2010. Here is a look at that 2010 budget:
Project Budgeted Spent Unspent funding
Sidewalk Improvement Project $121,500 121,500 -
Homeowner Assistance Pgm $80,000 60,000 20,000
Ferry St. Resource Center $55,000 54,000 1,000
Code enforcement $36,000 34,300 1,700
Main St. Incubator project $20,000 13,000 7,000
Downtown beautification $13,000 0 13,000
Homeless intervention pgm. $20,000 0 20,000
Community Gardens $8,000 $8,000 -
Ferry St. building improvement $15,000 0 15,000
Administration $40,000 12,000 28,000
Total $408,500 302,800 105,700