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Council discusses CDBG funds

Nineteen residents, three members of city council and three members of the city administration gather in room 10 of the Armory in Marietta Monday to discuss requests for federal Community Development Block Grant funding for 2021.(Photo by Janelle Patterson)

Federal funds for low-income aid were twice a topic of discussion in room 10 of the Armory in Marietta Monday.

First, in the Finance Committee, Marietta City Council reviewed the distribution of an additional $242,989 in coronavirus-related Community Development Block Grant funding the city is set to receive this year on top of the annual federal grant allocation. Development Director Mike Gulliver proposed to the legislative body the acceptance of four subrecipient agreements for $240,900 of the funds.

He proposed funding additional rental assistance through Washington-Morgan Community Action to serve up to 30 households with a cap of $3,000 per household in aid, up to $83,000, with an additional $12,450 in administrative overhead by the agency to run the program for a total of $95,450.

Gulliver proposed $25,000 be given to the Greater Marietta Community Food Pantry, housed in Devola, to provide resources for food, cleaning supplies and hygiene kits for individuals in need in the Marietta area.

He proposed $84,000 be funneled through Buckeye Hills Regional Council to be granted to small businesses in aid with an additional $11,450 administrative overhead cost allocated to the quasi-governmental agency for a total of $95,450.

He proposed $25,000 be given to the Gospel Mission Food Pantry to cover costs of food and hygiene products for individuals in need.

The remaining $2,089 would cover municipal administrative costs of distributing the funds to the four subrecipients, Gulliver said.

He also said both Buckeye Hills and the Gospel Mission boards of directors had not, as of Monday, yet solidified an acceptance of the subrecipient agreements.

The total 10.69 percent administrative cost would not count against the 25 percent administrative cap per fiscal year the department must maintain the grant under in order to remain in good standing with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for receipt of the federal CDBG funds, he said.

The funds are in addition to the $413,049 in CDBG funds already budgeted for city projects under the federal guideline.

Gulliver also said that the four recipients, if the amounts presented are approved by city council in a regular business meeting this month, must spend the additional funding by the end of Dec. 31, 2021, or return the funding.

The first of three public request meetings also were held for the 2021 federal grant cycle for regular allocations of the CDBG funds and was filled more so with constituents than members of council or the mayor’s administration Monday.

Councilmen Bill Gossett, Geoff Schenkel and Cassidi Shoaf and Mayor Josh Schlicher each stayed for the public meeting which began at 5:30 p.m. and was conducted by Gulliver and Development Clerk Lisa Forshey.

The meeting’s purpose was to accept requests for the 2021 fiscal year of CDBG funding, but without a formal three-year plan finalized or even proposed for council approval prior to the meeting.

Forshey said that the three-year plan for fiscal years 2021-2023 is not yet drafted or available for public perusal.

Without a three-year plan, as pointed out by residents, requests cannot fully be scored by an inclusion in the city priorities for the three funding years.

“We have a tremendous amount of people here and we’re going to try and help as many people as we can,” said Gulliver.

One request which had multiple voices drew concern to Gilman Avenue, Franklin Street and Maple Street for sidewalk compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Linda Veraldo, a resident of the Fourth Ward, brought four requests for sidewalk accessibility surrounding her residence on Gilman Avenue.

“The way I became aware of the real need was I had back surgery in the spring and found I could not walk around the block where I live with a walker,” said Veraldo.

Other residents backing the request of the sidewalk repairs for the 200 block of Gilman noted that the request is not for a ramp from the road’s intersections, but that of the sidewalks which connect ramps.

“Historically, it’s about $50,000 that goes for ADA sidewalks that doesn’t help much,” Gulliver replied.

Roger Kalter, a former councilman, also appeared during the public request meeting to request bicycle pathways and community policing with officers on bicycles in low-income neighborhoods.

“For $35,000 for bicycle police, for training for mental health. Marietta College is willing to host a training for police officers,” said Kalter.

Tom Fenton, also a Fourth Ward resident, signaled a coming request this month for the two blighted properties on Gilman Avenue and opened the discussion overall in the meeting was a discussion concerning blighted properties.

Gulliver said the $10,000 cap for individual home repairs, but Schenkel also clarified that there isn’t a threshold or limit on CDBG funding spent for demolition of a blighted property.

But for the majority of the meeting residents present used the discussion as an avenue to ask questions concerning qualified spends.

Both Jackson Patterson and Fenton advocated that with the coronavirus additional aid, and the proportions of additional traffic going to Gospel Mission Food Pantry versus the Greater Marietta Food Pantry more clearly reflect the public use by Marietta residents, homeless and in-need.

Gossett also noted that the “amount requested” portion of the development office’s official CDBG request form does not afford a layperson with the fighting chance of accurate estimations.

Gossett, Shoaf and Schenkel said additional meetings and editing of the CDBG process are needed after multiple residents expressed frustration and confusion following the meeting Monday.

Two additional public request meetings are scheduled to accept requests this month before the administration is scheduled to review all requests at the beginning of August.

Lisa Forshey said that 5 p.m. Aug. 3 will be the closure of acceptance for public requests for the funds.

The development office will take recommendations to Marietta City Council’s joint Finance and Planning and Zoning committees in August.

Public hearings on a semi-final budget following those meetings for the 2021 funds are then scheduled to begin on Sept. 3 with comments taken until Nov. 2 and the final 2021 plan to be submitted to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Nov. 15.

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