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Community Development Block Grant budget before Council again today

Marietta City Council has before it this evening the opportunity to hear a second reading of Resolution 50.

The legislation, as introduced by Finance Chairman Mike Scales, proposes a fiscal year 2021 budget for the expenditure of federal funds awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through the Community Development Block Grant program.

As introduced:

The proposed plan exceeds the federally-required limits on administrative spending of not more than 20 percent of the annual allocation by 14.23 percent and exceeds the public service capacity limit of 15 percent of the annual allocation by 1.47 percent.

The maximum spends–per the projected allocation of $425,000–may not exceed $85,000 that the city and its subrecipients are allowed to spend on administrative functions, salaries and office materials; and may not exceed $63,750 for public services (i.e. the Community Action Bus Line, Marietta Main Street and depending on what yet undefined work would occur as proposed at the city’s aquatic center.)

The proposed plan (according to Safety-Service Director Steve Wetz and Regional Supervisor for HUD out of the Columbus office, Anthony Forte) cannot be submitted without first completing the nonexistent consolidated plan for years 2021-2023, or 2021-2024/25.

This step has been consistently marked by both Councilwoman Cassidi Shoaf and by Councilman Geoff Schenkel before the Oct. 1 introduction by Scales, without response.

The proposed plan does not meet the minimum federally-required spend upon low-to-moderate income benefits of residents and LMI areas ($297,500 minimum).

Tonight, the legislative body may:

Hear the second reading of Resolution 50, and proceed with no further action tonight.

Table Resolution 50 before or after the second reading; such action would require a motion by any voting member of council and is not limited to Scales nor Councilman Mike McCauley or Councilwoman Cassidi Shoaf, who serve as members of the finance committee.

Suspend the rules and dispense with the third reading of Resolution 50, and move to a vote on the legislation.

If no further action occurs, the legislative body and city administration have two weeks to correct the proposed budget and complete a similarly-thorough consolidated plan to be introduced as additional legislation, optionally in a special business meeting, before a vote upon Resolution 50 on Nov. 5.

If Resolution 50 is tabled, council and the administration have more time to address the percentage caps and minimums not as of yet resolved.

If Resolution 50 is voted upon and passed, the city faces rejection of the plan by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the requirement to start over.

If Resolution 50 is voted upon and fails, the administration may propose a new, or modified budget for consideration and legislation.

To date, the only document submitted by Development Director Mike Gulliver which he called “my plan” concerning a consolidated plan is a one-page spreadsheet of projected allocations between the years 2021 and 2023.

Course correction

Wetz said Monday that with the present leave of absence by Development Clerk Lisa Forshey, he intends to begin working on recommendations for a consolidated plan without Gulliver and instead utilizing the mayor’s office intern from Marietta College.

In past consultation with former Development Director Andy Coleman, the consolidated planning process in 2017 for the years 2018-2020 began months before the city held public meetings to gather 2018-specific requests for funding.

That process included work with Washington County agencies to determine broad community needs and by 2017 included an emailed survey crafted with the advice of Family and Children First.

But then, as noted by Coleman in the years 2019 and 2020, refinement occurred to increase documentation accountability through citizen request form updates.

Scales did not comment Monday during his committee when informed by Wetz that he had “put the cart before the horse” when moving forward annual action plan for 2021 without the consolidated planning complete.

Scales also declined to return calls to both his cellphone and home phone by the Times for comment prior to press time Wednesday.

Qualitative analysis

Wetz also confirmed his support of the scoring rubric proposed by Planning, Zoning, Annexation and Housing Committee Chairman Geoff Schenkel in tandem with the creation of the Block Grant Recommendation Committee which council authorized in Ordinance 11 on Oct. 1.

“I think this rubric is great because to me, it takes the emotion out of it,” said Wetz.

He explained that upon review of the committee and the rubric with the city’s newest HUD Representative Jordan Frase, and its two past representatives Robert Milburn and Brian White, alongside Forte, the rubric may need to prove more strict.

“They said it seems fair, but may need more detail (for minimum standards of quality) and that it needs to place more priority on citizens,” he added. “And the committee needs to be more balanced with more resident representation, one (LMI) representative isn’t enough.”

Council authorized on Oct. 1, the creation of a six-member committee to determine recommendations based on eligibility and distribution of the annual allocation while also adopting as a framework a scoring rubric for CDBG requests proposed by Councilman Schenkel.

Citizen representation and direction of the funds is at the heart of the historical purpose of the funds, explained Schenkel.

“The whole purpose is not just to meet need, but to meet the needs that lived experience of our residents points us to. That expertise of experience comes from citizens more than it comes from somebody at a desk or in an elected position,” said Schenkel. “The federal government is saying, ‘Here is some money to listen to your citizens with and do the things you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do.’ Because in the wake of the unrest of the 60s, we learned, right and left, that when citizens go unheard, it leads to tremendous turmoil.”

Schenkel said the active engagement and direction by the citizenry the priority of the federal tool to “reintegrate marginalized populations.”

“Because in the 60s we recognized urban and rural populations that weren’t part of the dominant American culture,” said Schenkel. “We are entitled to this money not to just prolong or maintain the flexibility of general funds of municipalities. Not to make sure you make payroll, the federal government expects you to do that on your own. This is a supplement, a boost, an investment.”

Council meets today at 7:30 p.m. in room 10 of the Armory, 241 Front St.

The meeting is open to the public.

If you go:

• Marietta City Council meets at 7:30 p.m. in room 10 of the Armory, 241 Front St.

• The meeting is a formal business meeting subject to Roberts Rules of Order.

• Citizens may speak during the fourth order of business by either:

Approaching the podium and stating their name and address into the record before making a statement in no more than three minutes.

Commenting on the city’s social media livestream, both their name and address included in the written statement.

• Note: Citizen participants are not traditionally responded to during a formal meeting by members of council, the administration or the law director. Citizens are not required to only speak on topics of business before the legislative body Thursday.

Source: Times research.

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