Friday, December 11, 2009

City Seeks $4 Million in Federal Grants

Image: Plainfield YMCA.

The City Council is expected Monday to endorse a $4 million request for Community Development Block Grant applications, which will be passed on to Union County for final review.

The meeting is 8 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.

For Plainfield, a Census 2010 count reaching 50,000 residents is the key to side-stepping the process in favor of direct funding in future years. Meanwhile, the city must take its chances on gaining a portion of the county's $6 million federal allocation for programs benefiting low- and moderate-income residents.

The city requests are in five categories, spanning social services, housing, public facilities, public improvements and administrative costs.

The social services requests totaled $1.4 million for programs benefiting seniors, teens, food programs, young children and other needs, but the Citizen Advisory Committee approved only $229,731 to be passed on for county review.

All of the public facility requests were approved by the CAC, for a total of $2,083,946. The biggest single request was $1,574,526 for renovation of 60 residential units at the YMCA on Watchung Avenue. The YMCA offers single residential occupancy housing in a building that dates back 80 years, agency President/CEO Ravenell Williams said. Funding would go toward an essential gutting of the units to modernize them with telephones, cable access and heating and air conditioning in each room. If funding is granted, the repairs would be phased in starting with empty units to avoid resident displacement, he said.

Among public improvement requests, $1,258,100 for synthetic turf at Seidler Field was a big loser with no endorsement by the CAC. But other requests totaling $801,000 will be passed on for county review. They include restrooms, a concession area and storage at the Rock Avenue Baseball Complex for $239,000, city roadway improvements for $478,000 and handicap accessible bleachers at Seidler Field for $84,000.

Housing requests totaling $973,490 won favor with the CAC. If approved, they will provide $100,450 for down payment assistance and counseling for Faith, Bricks & Mortar, $79,000 and $394,040 in funding to make bathroom renovations at Allen-Young Apartments and $400,000 for a city-based program to repair homes of low-income residents.

The CDBG program schedule calls for an annual Fall review of requests by the CAC, with recommendations passed on to the governing body in December. The county review is typically completed in April and funding is received in September. Officials said even if an accurate 2010 count of Plainfielders reached 50,000 or more in the 2010 Census, the process would not change for a couple of years.

Under the current system, the decennial figures affect many governmental decisions, even though interim changes may reflect many changes in demographics and needs. Certainly Plainfield has changed drastically since 2000.

Another local issue is who serves on the CAC. The committee is supposed to represent a broad base of community organizations, with up to 33 members. But more recently, a handful of city staffers have made the cut. Under questioning last week by Councilwoman Linda Carter, it came out that five citizens and two City Hall staffers decided on what requests to send on to the county this time around.

--Bernice Paglia


Blogger Maria Pellum, Plainfield Resident said...

Hi Bernice,

Thanks for reporting on the CAC, this is one committee that needs the community's eyes on it.

But I also have another comment and that is about the YMCA's picture:

You see the tree that is blocking the view? It's half dead, it looks ugly even when in bloom, and now that your picture is posted, I can see that the YMCA could really look much better if the tree was gone. Maybe a couple of beautiful flowering trees, planters, and new steps, would make the YMCA a lot more attractive. Hmmm! Thanks for the picture, it really is a beautiful picture of the Y, just minus the tree.

Best regards.

4:51 PM  

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