Common Council committee checks on CDBG progress

In the political world some issues are more important than others. The Dun-kirk Common Council’s Econo-mic Development Committee took that approach at its meeting Wednesday.

After a quick rundown of agenda items checking on tasks assigned to development department officials, the meeting turned to the city’s Community Development Block Grant one- and five-year plans. The plans were changed after the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development was not satisfied with the original submission from the city.

CDBG Administrator Tim Gornikiewicz said there are some items the city wants to spend 2012 funds on but it is waiting until past issues are cleared up.

The city held a public hearing on the new one- and five-year plans recently and the plan can be found at the city’s website; www.dunkirktoday.com. under planning and development. The final day for comments to be submitted is July 26. After that the city has a few days to compile the comments before they are sent on to HUD in the final submission of plans.

“We do have on the Tuesday agenda for council the approval of those one- and five-year plans,” Devel-opment Director Steve Neratko added.

Councilwoman-at-Large Stephanie Kiyak asked if council had until the meeting to make suggestions, changes, or ask questions.

“Yes. You can always submit comments afterward,” Neratko replied. “It’s a little bit different. The comments that we receive from the public or anyone until that July 26 date are included in the plan. Then there’s a response from us that either we made this change due to your comment or we did not make a change and this is the reason why.”

Neratko said both he and Gornikiewicz would respond to the comments before the plan was sent in.

“If there are any major changes after council approves the plan on Tuesday, it would have to be approved again,” Neratko added.

Gornikiewicz stated if council wants to make changes, at this point it would be better to wait until after Tuesday’s approval of the plans.

“You’re better off doing it after, like September, after everything’s approved, to amend the plan, rather than doing it now,” he added.

After further questions about the process, Neratko said plans can always be amended.

“I would say at this point we would really like to know if you have any structural issues with the document. Are there any major changes council would like to see?” he asked. “If so, we need to know by Friday.”

Kiyak asked if the majority of extra funding would be going to streets. Gornikiewicz replied there was some $175,000 for streets work in the plan and there was some sidewalk money left from 2012 CDBG funding. He said the 2013 plan has six projects.

“That was HUD’s recommendation from the start of last year, the fewer the better,” he explained. “We had eight, now we’re down to six. Hamburg gets a little less money than us, they have four projects. This is what they want to see.”

Neratko said a HUD trainer told of Chicago getting over $2 million and running four projects.

“It’s much easier to manage. The projects end up turning out better because you have more time to spend on each one,” he added.

Kiyak ascertained that the information in the proposed resolution is from the plans and can be found in full in the plans.

“That’s definitely where it got pulled from,” Neratko added. ” … If you have a major problem with one of the six projects, or if you have a major problem with some of the data … we can always make changes to the financial amounts later. We will probably have to do that to some of our 2012 funds eventually.”

Third Ward Councilman Adelino Gonzalez had a concern.

“I want to see a breakdown as to what they’re going to do with money. Can I get that?” he asked about Chautauqua Opportunities Inc.’s involvement in the housing rehabilitation portion of the plan. “Being part of that board administrating that before, I have questions, I have concerns. We need to know their action plans on what they’re going to do with that money specifically.”

Gonzalez later clarified that he was on the board of the Chautauqua Home and Rehabilitation Improvement Corporation when it was running the city’s housing rehab program some years ago. He said CHRIC was part of COI at the time.

Neratko said there were two target areas, one in the blocks near Washington Park and the other along the eastern entryways into the city. Some $200,000 is available.

“We’re really hoping to focus more on the nine blocks within the Washington Park area to really see a major impact on a small area of the community,” Neratko stated. “They would be looking to do major, $20 to $30 to $40,000 projects on houses. They would take in applications. … They would be within that area looking to do six to nine houses depending on the projects and depending on what other money they’re able to utilize on those projects.”

Gornikiewicz added HUD’s recommendation was to do fewer projects that have more of an impact.

Fiscal Affairs Officer Rich Halas and Development Department Administrator Nicole Waite also attended the 35-minute meeting.

Send comments to gsnyder@observertoday.com