DDA names interim director, shifts focus and funding

By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK – The city’s Downtown Development Authority has a new interim director.

The authority’s board named Mike Donofrio, the city’s economic development director to the position at its March 25 meeting.

Most DDA members have demonstrated a commitment to move forward with the Unity Studios development. A majority of them voted last fall to extend a $2 million unsecured capital improvement loan to the complex.

With cash flow tight, and the shift in focus to the studio complex, the authority also voted to suspend its facade and advertising grant programs. However, the board reassured concerned business owners that it would honor commitments already established, much to the relief of those in attendance with work in progress.

Authority members were concerned about providing required matching money for two pending federal grants sought by the Fire Department. Grant writer and department employee Tammy Jones brought two requests to the DDA. One was for $4,000 to complete the matching funds needed to be eligible for a $675,000 U.S. Department of Homeland Security Assistance to Firefighters grant to buy a 100-foot aerial platform truck. The money would complete the $75,000 in local matching funds.

The other request was for $11,700 in matching funds required to accept a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant to hire two new hire department employees.

In near silence, board members addressed the possibility of losing federal grant funding if they were unable to successfully fund their smaller required portion.

Donofrio asked Jones to reiterate and clarify for the board the consequences of not coming up with the matching money. She said the grants essentially were approved pending the city’s ability to prove it could fulfill the federal requirements, which include matching funds.

City officials would continue to be approached by granting agencies if they can meet all the conditions of the grant, Jones said.

“If we can’t come up with the money, we would have to turn it down,” she said, “and once you’re awarded and you’ve turned down grants, it kind of nixes your opportunities in the future.”

Board member Angelo DeGiulio said that if the DDA had not lent $2 million to Unity it would have money available not only for the matching grant requirements, but for fund facade and advertising grant programs.

The board received an unexpected pledge from Roger Kidd, controller of Stautzenberger Institute, which recently agreed to locate classrooms in the Unity complex, for the remaining $4,000 required in matching money for the ladder truck grant. in required local matching money.

The institute’s classes recently relocated from a decommissioned Livonia elementary school to the development south of City Hall anchored by Unity Studios and the Lifton Institute for Media Skills.

With the gift in hand, authority board members approved a motion to provide the $11,700 for the FEMA grant.

This year the program is giving away over $500 million in grant proceeds, Jones said, and historically has gone up annually.

“I see no reason why it won’t continue to go up,” she said, “and it has met the Fire Department’s needs.”

Last year it received two grants that enabled officials to buy a new pumper and for Jaws of Life.

“We are seizing every opportunity to augment our budget,” Jones said.

Fire Chief Mark Hogrebe proposed different budget cost savings and fundraisers to the City Council on March 23 to acquire matching money, and council members were eager to assist with fundraising.

Councilwoman Beverly Kelley offered to provide a significant portion of the much-needed matching fund donation from the festivities budget.

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