By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
RIVERVIEW – The Wayne County Community Development Block Grant Program could shift money away from annual community discretionary spending distribution into an “impactful projects” fund that could leave some cities with nothing.
Allen Park City Administrator Mark Kibby, who serves as a CDBG administrator, met with the Riverview City Council during its Oct. 10 study session to explain how the loss of annual discretionary allocations could hurt Downriver communities, and to suggest strategies to maintain the flow of money from the Wayne County CDBG program to communities.
Kibby said for Project Year 17, which begins in July 2017, $500,000 would be taken out of the annual distribution to cities to fund competitive “impactful projects,” which would cut each city’s current allocation.
He said Wayne County funding is being shifted around so that CDBG’s proposed competitive project funding would cut only about 10 percent from each city’s current annual distribution.
Councilwoman Lynn Blanchette, who represents Riverview on the CDBG board, said the allocations would be subdivided into $500,000 each for eastern Wayne County, with eight participating cities; Downriver, with 14 cities, and western Wayne County, with 13 cities, which she said was an uneven division of the three $500,000 allocations on a per city basis.
Kibby said U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) is advocating for the affected communities to insure the CDBG continues to meet its needs.
Multi-jurisdictional projects are what Kibby believes the CDBG program would favor for the competitive project money allocations.
Community Housing Development Organizations, private nonprofit community-based service organizations that work to develop affordable housing for communities, could be eligible for the CDBG money for the first time, Kibby said. In the past, cities could give CHDOs money from the CDBG programs through a recipient agreement, and now CHDOs could be directly eligible to receive money.
He said Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency, based in Wyandotte, with a mission to empower low-income people and strengthen communities, is an eligible CHDO.
Kibby suggested Downriver cities investigate which projects tend to successfully obtain funding in other jurisdictions and apply for similar projects, like senior transportation, so funding doesn’t bypass the cities and go directly to the CHDOs.
“Maybe it’s teaming up with the (Downriver Community Conference) for some sort of transportation grant that would exceed what we normally offer to our residents,” Kibby said.
The DCC provides leadership to help communities work together to meet the needs of people and the economy Downriver.
Kibby said Americans with Disabilities Act compliance could serve as another possible multi-city project.
If cities could go from having a $96,000 CDBG annually to nothing, they are unable to budget around such uncertainty, Kibby said.
Blanchette said that Housing and Urban Development officials were unaware of the reallocation of CDBG money that Wayne County had proposed to its member communities.
“Personally I still have a gut feeling that the county is going to somehow abscond with these funds, use it for the county,” Blanchette said. “Paper-wise they are trying to cut as many communities as they can, and look at HUD and say, ‘Well, we needed the money here, and nobody really qualified for what we were doing.’”
Blanchette also expressed concern that if the county spends money for ineligible projects, that communities might forfeit funds that might eventually have to be reimbursed to the supplying government agency.
“Thanks to folks like Mark (Kibby) and his tenacious attitude, we just said, ‘No. It’s not going to happen,’” Blanchette said.
Kibby said communities must make sure they know what Wayne County will consider to be qualifying “impact projects.”
He said some projects that make a significant difference to residents might not attract the media attention Wayne County would like to see.
“To me, putting the playground equipment in at Memorial Park, that impacts that neighborhood,” Kibby said. “Doing the senior services impacts the participants in that activity. We also fund the Guidance Center, and the Senior Alliance. To me, those are impactful projects.”
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)