Judy Borger, county director of the Department of Community and Economic Development, told Mahoning supervisors that the township is once again considered an entitlement community for the distribution of Community Development Block Grants, but that there are some challenges to determining how to use the money.
"The money can be used for equal access to facilities, water and sewer improvements, parks and recreation and street improvements for example, but the projects have to benefit low to moderate income or LMI families and that may be a challenge for some areas of the township," said Borger at Monday's special meeting.
While the census data used to determine funding as well as the amount of money the county expects to receive has not been finalized, she estimated the township would receive about $82,000 a year less about $12,000 in administrative fees. The amount is less than previous years because the state reduced the allocation to the county by 12 percent.
Borger also said the state normally likes to approve projects which benefit a large number of residents, of whom at least 51 percent must fall in the LMI category. She distributed maps to the supervisors to show which areas of the township in the 2000 census were LMI areas. Included in those zones 10 years ago were areas like Troxell Hill, Packerton, Jamestown and Nis Hollow.
Chairperson John Wieczorek said the township applied for funding before it became an entitlement community and was awarding some funding for improving Beaver Street but was turned down for Troxell Hill.
"Troxell's Hill was rejected because of the low number of families along the road and the lack of LMI families who would benefit from that project," Borger said.
"I think that project would benefit several LMI residents," said Supervisor Travis Steigerwalt. "All of Lower Nis Hollow Drive, who are in the LMI zone, use Troxell Hill to access 443 and Wal-Mart. I disagree that the road which is in bad shape only benefits a small number of residents."
"That is the type of information I need to get these projects approved from the state," Borger answered. "We need income information from areas to improve the chances of these projects being approved."
Borger said there were some projects that would not qualify, including repairing or building government buildings, unless the improvements are providing equal access for disabled residents. Steigerwalt said the bathrooms are one area in the township building that are not handicapped accessible. The meeting room clearance also make it impossible for a wheelchair maneuver.
Those examples are something the state would likely improve, but just generally using the money for a township building is not an acceptable project, Borger said.
At question was raised on how to determine if an area is eligible for a project submission without the census data. Borger said municipal officials in other townships and boroughs conducted door-to-door surveys to make that determination of income, using a confidential survey much like the way the census is conducted. That information can then be submitted to the state if the census information is not available.
Borger said the challenge for this year will be submitting project applications in time for the approval process without knowing how much money will be available and without knowing for sure which areas of the township would be eligible. Borger said she would work with them to get the project proposals submitted.
To assist her with the application process, she asked if someone was available to show her around the township to get an understanding of what needs to be repaired or improved.
She told supervisors the project applications are due to the county in mid-March for review, but she would work with them to get the data for the submission to the state which occurs in early May.
"There will be a second round of hearings scheduled in late March or early April where we will return to discuss your submissions and accept public comment again, before sending the project proposals to the state," she said.
Mahoning Township is one of four Carbon County municipalities to receive guaranteed CDBG funding annually for the next 10 years. Lansford lost its funding when census numbers just missed the 4,000-resident threshold that guarantees the grant funds.