City Council to appoint panel to consider CDBG grant requests

January 29, 2010
Santa Paula City Council

The City Council was updated on the new rules governing the federal Community Development Block Grant program and agreed to keep the citizens’ component for funding recommendations.

Assistant to the City Manager Elisabeth Amador told the council at the January 19 meeting that the county - which secured agreements with the five smaller cities to administer CDBG funds - held a December public hearing and workshop for city representatives, walking them through the new process. A report on those organizations based in Santa Paula seeking funding was forwarded to the city.

Amador asked the council to appoint a Citizens Advisory Committee to consider the local requests and assign priority to same. The committee will meet February 3, and Amador noted the session could last as long as five hours due to the number of speakers.

In February the five cities will again meet with the county, and on March 1 the committee’s recommendations would be reviewed by the council, which Amador said “can make any changes you think necessary” before resubmitted to the county. The Board of Supervisors will consider the grants later in March, a hearing that “everybody must attend,” including a city representative to oversee the city’s own funding applications.

CDBG funds are broken into categories, with 15 percent dedicated to social services and the balance - less administrative costs - going for “brick and mortar” projects. Emphasis is placed on housing, homelessness prevention, social services and economic development, among other categories. The city is seeking funding for fire station equipment and museum improvements, as well as other needs.

“I like the process, it’s very clean,” said Councilman Ralph Fernandez, but “my only concern is the statement you made is that the CDBG committee would be four or five hours. That’s a long time for a citizens group to listen to presentations.” He suggested committee members receive full information in advance of the hearing, and that speakers seeking grants be limited in their comments.

Amador noted that those serving on the committee receive all applications at least a week in advance, and Interim City Manager Cliff Finley said a public hearing is not required for committee members.

Some speakers, said Fernandez, “can go 20 minutes, are very long winded,” but in general he believes applicants should have the opportunity to address their grant requests.

“By the time you get to 23 or 24” applicants, Mayor Jim Tovias said, “you don’t hear anything.”

Vice Mayor Fred Robinson asked if those agencies serving the entire county document such services benefiting Santa Paulans. Fund recipients, said Amador, are mandated to provide such reporting.

This year applications topped $1.466 million in requests for the Santa Paula area, with the total pot of money of nearly $2 million in CDBG funds available for Santa Paula, Fillmore, Ojai, Moorpark and Pt. Hueneme. The grants are funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

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