City considers how to allocate its Block Grants

By Jessica Cejnar, The Triplicate February 21, 2014 01:43 pm

Recipients include RHS and the Head Start building

Upgrades to the Crescent City Head Start building and a sewer project on B Street will be included in Crescent City’s 2014 application for Community Development Block Grant funding.

Mayor Rick Holley and Councilwomen Kelly Schellong and Kathryn Murray on Tuesday directed staff to prepare the application for 2014 CDBG funds. The application will also include a request for $300,000 to fund Rural Human Services’ food bank and domestic violence shelter through 2016.

Council members Ron Gastineau and Rich Enea recused themselves from the discussion. Gastineau is an RHS employee and Enea sits on the non-profit’s board of directors.

Crescent City is eligible for $2 million in CDBG funding, City Manager Eugene Palazzo said. The completed application will come before the City Council on March 17 for a public hearing. It must be submitted to the California Department of Housing and Community Development by April 11, he said.

“I always like to leverage as much money as we can through grants,” Palazzo said, adding that the city must choose to fund projects in three categories out of five. “Where you’re going to leverage the most money is with public facilities with the Head Start building, the public improvement project of the B Street sewer project and public services with (closing) that funding gap. We’ll have a very strong application with those three buckets, or silos as we’re calling them.”

The Head Start building at 475 7th St. is 40-45 years old, Palazzo said. The city leased it to the school readiness program about 20 years ago. He said the building is “pushing its useful life” and needs an estimated $100,000 in repairs.

The Housing Authority Building, which would be upgraded to meet accessibility requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act, is another candidate for a public facilities grant Palazzo said. He proposed to use $130,000 in program income funds to make those upgrades instead of applying for a grant for that project.

Palazzo said he would bring the program income waiver application back to the Council for approval March 17.

The B Street sewer project would include replacing 700 lineal feet of sewer main between Second Street and the wastewater treatment plant, according to the city’s staff report. The existing clay pipe is 60 years old and conveys sewage from approximately 75 percent of the entire system with a hydraulic capacity of 6 million gallons per day.

Storm events have exceeded the capacity of the B Street sewer main, leading to overflows or costly mitigating measures such as hiring a pumping service on a 24-hour basis until the storm and sewer flows have subsided, according to the staff report. Replacing the pipe is expected to cost $1.3 million, Palazzo said.

The city’s Second Street sewer replacement project, which is currently under construction, was paid for with $1.2 million in 2012 CDBG funds.

As for public services, RHS’s food bank and the Harrington House received CDBG funding in 2012 and expect to have those funds expended in 2015, said Lorie Adams, a consultant with Adams Ashby Group, a Sacramento firm the city hired in April to manage its grants. To fill the one-year gap between 2015 and 2016, each organization would need $150,000, she said.

During the 2012 funding cycle, $225,000 in CDBG funds was allocated to the Harrington House and $275,000 was allocated to the food bank, Adams said.

“Those two are both organizations you can continue to fund with city CDBG funding,” Adams said. 

The city can only provide CDBG funding to service organizations that have a significant impact on city residents, Adams said. During a meeting with local service organizations, city officials asked them to look at who they serve and determine how many were city and county residents.

Other programs considered for city CDBG funding included Court Appointed Special Advocates Del Norte, the Senior Nutrition Center and the new Lighthouse Community Center, Adams said. CASA Del Norte and the Senior Nutrition Center are county-funded operations with the nutrition center serving primarily county residents, she said.

The Lighthouse Community Center, which is run out of a building owned by the Lighthouse Community Church, is a newer “grass roots” organization, Adams said. She recommended the city assist it in building capacity and obtaining smaller grants before receiving a federal grant.   

With its 2012 CDBG funding, RHS’s food bank program purchased a large refrigerator that enables Special Projects Program Coordinator Ron Phillips to offer fresh produce to clients. 

The program also used another grant to purchase carrots from Ocean Air Farms in Fort Dick, Phillips said. RHS will buy more carrots from Ocean Air Farms in April and some lettuce in May, he said.

“In June we’ll see what is available,” Phillips said, adding that the $150,000 grant would be used for food and salaries. “That’s been a great asset of keeping that money right here in the county and turning it over.” 

Katie Leathers, program director for the Harrington House, said 63 percent of the program’s salaries is covered through CDBG funds. The program hired a prevention advocate who is talking about domestic violence and healthy relationships to teens in juvenile hall and Del Norte High School. The number of people seeking services has increased, she said.

“We’re looking at 33 to 67 percent increases just in the last quarter,” Leathers said. “Anywhere from crisis calls to intakes to shelter nights to meals served and (temporary restraining orders) that have been filed and we’ve assisted with.”

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