The CDBG application process requires two public hearings: the first to solicit ideas from the community; the second to present the project the agency has decided to pursue. Although last night's meeting was advertised as an extension of the first public hearing, it felt more like a prelude to the second when Bill Roehr of TGW Consulting (a.k.a. the Grant Writers) got up to explain what seems to be the favored project: a synergistic program that brings together funds from CDBG and the Main Street and Rural Area Revitalization programs and concentrates them on a single area to make exterior improvements to owner-occupied houses. Roehr suggested the 200 and 300 blocks of State Street as a possible target area.
|Part of the north side of the 200 block of State Street|
A question from committee member David Marston about whether CDBG money could be used to improve private property brought attention to another challenge: administering the grant, dispersing the money, and making certain it is used as intended and the work is satisfactorily done. Despite the fact that housing grants are "labor intensive" in administration, Roehr argued that they made a difference for individual home owners and for neighborhoods.
Alderman Wanda Pertilla (Second Ward), who was in the audience, declared herself "definitely on top of this," but other audience members were not as enthusiastic. Linda Mussmann, co-founder of Time & Space Limited, restated her case for new sidewalks on the 400 block of Columbia Street, calling that stretch of Columbia Street a "huge link to other services" and asserting that "the truck route should be primary."
Supervisor Sarah Sterling (First Ward) presented an enhanced concept for improving the school bus stop on Third Street between Columbia and Warren: turn the vacant lot at Third and Columbia, where the Colored Citizens' Club once stood, into the pocket park. The plan would involve a covered bus stop for schoolchildren waiting for their school bus and a place where mothers and young children could enjoy being outdoors. Sterling called Third and Columbia "an ideal place to make a statement."
Moore and Pertilla both rejected this idea--for different reasons. Moore made the point that "the City has $80,000 invested in the property [the cost of demolishing the building], and it won't be likely they will be willing to take it off the tax rolls." The property still belongs to the Overcomers Ministries, which is being charged for the demolition through property taxes levied on a property now assessed at $12,000. Pertilla's objections were different. She predicted that a park at that location would become a gathering place for undesirable characters and the neighbors would complain.
Mussmann took the meeting as an opportunity to complain about 325-327 State Street, demanding to know, rather disingenuously, if Salvino was responsible for this project even though there is a huge sign next to the building announcing that its rehabilitation is a project of Housing Resources of Columbia County and identifying the principals in that not-for-profit.
|325-327 State Street this morning|
|325-327 State Street in 2010|
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