West Penn Township is no longer part of the Schuylkill County's non-entitlement communities to receive funds the county receives from the federal government for community development and housing needs, it was announced by Gary Bender, director of the county's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. Bender explained the township no longer needs to compete with other communities to get grants from the county. Pine Grove Township also can also file on its own because of population growth.

"Because the township has gone over the 4,000 population figure it is now eligible to apply for its own funds for the designated program, " Bender reported at a public hearing held Wednesday at the courthouse in Pottsville. The meeting was chaired by the three county commissioners who hurried back from their public meeting held at the Schuylkill County Airport.

Commissioner chairperson Mantura Gallagher opened the meeting explaining the purpose for the public hearing is to provide an opportunity for citizens to comment on the community development and housing needs of the county that can be addressed through the use of CDBD funds.

Gallagher explained, "According to federal regulations and guidelines, these funds must be used for activities that benefit low to moderate income persons or to eliminate slums and blight. Packets of applications sent out last August to all the non-entitlement communities are due back November 4, which gave them sufficient time to incorporate local project costs into their 2012 budgets. Local project costs include engineering fees, which are the sole responsibility of the community."

The county was notified this year it will receive $350,000 for its project which is $100,000 under the amount received last year. All applications received will be reviewed by the county commissioners who will make their announcement of the distribution of the monies received at a public meeting to be held Dec. 28.

At the hearing Karen Parish, of Mullin and Lonergan Associates Inc., reviewed a range of eligible activities.

Acquisition of property, disposition expenses (resale), public improvements including streets, curbs, sidewalks, storm and sanitary sewers, water lines, parks, community centers, senior centers, parking lots and fire stations; demolition, and public service.

Grant funds can be used to pay the local share of other grant-in-aide projects; privately owned utilities, rehabilitation such as renovation of closed school buildings and buildings occupied by low and moderate income families being located in non-entitlement communities.

Removal of material and architectural barriers which restrict mobility and accessibility of elderly and handicapped persons; homeowners assistance to finance the acquisition by low and moderate income homebuyers of housing; economic development activities for loans, loan guarantees, interest supplements to assist commercial or industrial properties, including railroad spurs or similar extensions.

Grant funds can be used to assist non-profit organizations to undertake economic development and neighborhood revitalization activities and matching funds can be contributed to qualified individual development accounts for lower income individuals to purchase a home, receive education and job training or capitalize a microenterprise.

Parish stated 70 percent of the annual block grant funds must be used to benefit low and moderate income persons.