CDBG Citizens Advisory Committee parcels out grants

February 16, 2007
Santa Paula News

There were a few winners but more losers as a Citizens Advisory Committee spent more than four hours taking comment and then parceling out an ever-shrinking pot of Community Development Block Grant funds.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesThere were a few winners but more losers as a Citizens Advisory Committee spent more than four hours taking comment and then parceling out an ever-shrinking pot of Community Development Block Grant funds.The committee - Chairman Kevin Beyers, Dion Anderson, Roger Browers, Laura Flores Espinosa, Roy Lee and Earl McPhail - considered the requests from a variety of nonprofit agencies at the Feb. 7 meeting.Assistant to the City Manager Elisabeth Amador told the panel that city is approaching its 22nd year of federal HUD grant giving through the CDBG program, which each year draws dozens of applicants.When a panel member asked if more funding can be awarded than requested Flores-Espinosa noted “there are much more dollars requested then dollars” to give, and although the committee can grant lesser amounts, “I’ve never heard of” more being awarded.Rochelle Margolin of the Economic Development Department asked that the small business micro loan program be awarded $50,000.The program has created up to 40 jobs for mostly Santa Paula residents: “We loan half the money needed for a project,” and the loan must be repaid in 10 years at 4.8 percent interest.The latest loan for The Grove restaurant is considered the program’s “greatest success” in job creation said Margolin.By any standards generating income is fine but Flores-Espinosa noted that retail and restaurant jobs historically do not offer higher wages.“Our concern is to hire local residents at the skill sets they have,” at the time and the city does not have a living wage ordinance said Margolin.Committee members expressed concern when they found that the city’s Code Enforcement program - which tackles residential health and safety issues including overcrowding, fire and other hazards - receives no General Fund monies but rather is funded through fees/processing, CDBG and RDA funds.Building and Safety Director said that the federal government considers code enforcement a “form of housing rehabilitation” and that the latter is now funded from new sources.“I don’t know anyone in town who doesn’t want code enforcement,” and Anderson questioned why the it’s not a Council “line item...”“From the City’s Council perspective,” police and fire has funding precedence over code enforcement noted Stuart.
Fire Chief Rick Araiza said that the city’s needs further funding for the new fire engine expected to be delivered next month and Stuart noted that the request qualifies as a project due to federal guidelines on poverty levels.“A fire engine is considered a permanent structure,” said Stuart.Sylvia Fine-Stine of Long Term Care Services of Ventura County (LTCSVC) told the Council that the advocacy program monitoring convalescent care residents is indeed needed in Santa Paula where about 200 residents live in two facilities.The federal government mandates annual visits but Fine-Stine said that “our founders determined once a week,” visits to convalescent hospitals.“We’re able to maintain this mandate due to the outside funding we receive,” and the organization’s low overhead.Sixty percent of those residing in nursing homes have no family Fine-Stine added and “no one does what we do” and that service free of charge.Jane Lax said that The Our Place Shelter, the only year round homeless shelter and multi-service drop-in center for persons who are mentally ill and homeless in Ventura County.“Last year Our Place Shelter served six residents from the City of Santa Paula,” and with the recent addition of a bilingual caseworker Lax said, “they expect that number to increase.”The committee recommended that the Senior Services Coordinator receive the requested $10,000 grant; LTCSVC, $3,000; Community Assistance of Santa Paula, $5,000; Food Share, $3,000; Santa Paula Family Resource Center/Interface - which had requested $35,000 - $10,000; Boys & Girls Club programming $10,000, less than the $16,000 requested; County of Ventura Rain Project $3,000; and $7,800 for Community Action of Ventura County, which had requested $10,000.Social service program grants totaled $58,839.Project recommendations included $100,000 for the Code Enforcement Program - less than the $120,000 requested - and $25,000, half of what was requested for the Micro Business Loan Program.Some of the other funding recommendations included Blanchard Community Library electrical project ($25,000 although $100,000 was requested); SPFD engine ($25,000 for the $30,000 request) and $65,000 (about half the request) to upgrade restrooms at city parks.In all recommended project grants totaled $287,776.

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