Second CDBG funding hearing for city held

WEIRTON – The second public hearing for Weirton’s Community Development Block Grant funding program took place Tuesday at the municipal building.

Applications for CDBG funding were mailed out Jan. 24, and the first public hearing to discuss the program was held Feb. 11.

The 2014 Annual Action Plan for the City of Weirton designates the way CDBG funding will be used, with a minimum of 70 percent benefiting low- to moderate-income residents. The money is intended to promote housing, community development and economic development in the city. Last year Weirton received approximately $390,315 of entitlement funds through the program, according to CDBG Administrator Beth Gaughan.

Gaughan explained activities eligible for CDBG funding include acquisition of property, disposition costs, improvements to public facilities, demolition and environmental clean-up, new public services or increases in existing public services, interim assistance, code enforcement and special economic development activities.

Also up for discussion was HOME Investment Partnership funding through the Northern Panhandle HOME Consortium, which helps low-income, first-time home buyers offset the initial costs of investing in a house. Last year about $31,820 was allocated in the area through HOME, she said.

Project funding applications were due to the city by Feb. 18, and the Annual Action Plan will remain on public display until May 12. It will then be presented to Weirton City Council, along with the 2014-2015 fiscal budget, at 7:30 p.m. during their regular meeting.

The Annual Action Plan is scheduled to be submitted to the Housing and Urban Development office in Pittsburgh on May 15.

The mayor, city manager, city finance manager, members of city council and several department heads gathered March 31 to review requests and allocate CDBG Funding for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1.

A total of $487,080 was requested by numerous agencies and departments for projects, but only $387,063 was available through CDBG funding, officials said. Numerous requests were cut down to fit.

In the realm of public services, CASA, Weirton Police Department, the Parks Board, Weirton Senior Center, Weirton Christian Center, Dunbar Neighborhood Center, Comfort House and the Community Bread Basket made CDBG funding requests.

A Child’s Place CASA, Ltd. requested $6,780 to support operating expenses for the care and advocacy of abused and neglected children as they enter the court system in Weirton. They will receive $5,000.

The Weirton Police Department requested $20,000 to fund foot patrols, bike patrols, vehicle patrols and drug enforcement. They were allotted $12,600.

The Weirton Board of Parks and Recreation requested $11,000 to provide a limited number of facility passes for Millsop Community Center and Starvaggi Pool for low to moderate income residents. They will receive $8,000.

The Weirton Senior Center requested $5,000 for operating costs, and city council members voted to allocate $3,500.

The Weirton Christian center asked for a total of $9,300 to fund liability insurance on a van as well as utility costs. They will receive $3,500, which is the same amount as last year.

Dunbar Neighborhood Center requested $4,000 and will receive that amount to fund operating expenses and personnel to assist area children through educational and recreational activities.

Comfort House requested $12,000 to fund a year of operational expenses to provide forensic interviews, mental health support, coordinated medical services and coordination with law enforcement. They will receive $7,500, which is less than requested but still an increase from last year’s amount.

Weirton Police Chief Bruce Marshall noted that Comfort House has been invaluable to the police department and that the counseling they provide for children is incredibly important for police operations.

Community Bread Basket requested $11,000 to provide clients with food assistance, and they will receive $10,000.

For infrastructure, the Hancock County Sheltered Workshop will receive $30,000 as requested to replace a leaking roof. The Weirton Public Works Department also requested $250,000 for milling and paving of streets in low to moderate income areas. They will receive $136,667.

In the category of slum and blight, the Inspections Department will receive the requested $50,000 for code enforcement and $30,000 for demolition of dilapidated buildings.

For planning and administration, the Development Department was allocated $60,000 for CDBG program administration and $2,000 to fund fair housing promotion citywide. The Human Rights Commission also will receive their requested $4,000 to fund administration and training.

Council members decided that the remaining $20,296 of CDBG funds will be used to supplement paving for 2015. They hope it will provide cushioning for federal cut-backs on street maintenance.

(Dalrymple can be contacted at sdalrymple@heraldstaronline.com)