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No representatives appear for hearing on block grant funds

Published October 15. 2010 05:00PM

No representatives from municipalities appeared at a public meeting held Wednesday morning at the courthouse in Pottsville by the Schuylkill County Commissioners to receive comments on how the county will use a grant of $400,000 it anticipates receiving for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.

Municipalities have until Nov. 19 to list projects for which they are seeking funds. Application packets were sent out in August to the municipalities to give them sufficient time to incorporate local project costs in their 2011 budgets, Mark Scarbinsky, county fiscal administrator who also doubles as director of the CDBG program, informed the commissioners. Local project costs include engineering fees which are the sole responsibility of the municipalities.

Present to address any questions were Karen Parish from Mullin and Lonergan Associates Inc., which assists Scarbinsky and Gary Bender in operating the program.

Bender reported since 1999 the fund has distributed $4.3 million to municipalities for sewer, water and demolition projects. The county has already received 24 applications for funds.

The range of eligible activities include the following:

Acquisition of property; public improvements such as streets, curbs, sidewalks, storm and sanitary sewers, water lines, parks, community centers, senior centers, parking lots and fire stations; demolition of dilapidated buildings.

Under public service no more than 15 per cent of the annual grant can be used for new or expanded public services related to health, welfare, crime prevention, drug abuse, recreation needs, etc. Grant funds can be used to pay the local share of other grant-in-aid projects and privately owned utilities.

Rehabilitation includes renovation of closed school buildings and buildings occupied by low and moderate income families being located in non-entitled communities. Also complete rehabilitation of a property or special emergency repairs, energy improvements, smoke detectors, connection of residential structures to water distribution lines or local sewer collection lines and related costs.

Historical preservation; removal of material and architectural barriers which restrict mobilty and accessibility of eldery and handicapped persons. Grant funds can be used for loans, loan guarantees, interest supplements to assist commercial or industrlal properties, including railroad spurs or similar exrtensions. Lead based paint hazard evaluation and reduction.

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

The commissioners will screen applications and announced they will give priority consideration to those projects which can demonstrate a serious health and safety problem and/or will beneift low/modertate income persons,

Bender reported 70 percent of the annual block grant funds (excluding administration and planning costs) must be used to benefit low and moderate income persons. In Schuylkill County, low and moderate income persons are defined as follows:

One person, $30,350; two, $34,650; three, $39,000; four, $43,300; five, $46,800; six, $50, 250; seven, $53,700 and eight, $57,200. Bender also stated up to 30 percent of the annual grant can be used for activities that prevent or eliminate blighting conditions or solve an urgent communitiy development need.

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