City CDBG funds see decrease

PARKERSBURG – The city’s latest Community Development Block Grant allotment will be lower than anticipated, officials said on Friday.

City officials will go over the new amount and what effect it will have on funded programs aimed at low- to moderate-income neighborhoods during a meeting of the Parkersburg City Council Finance Committee at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the small conference room adjacent to council chambers. That will be followed by a Public Works Committee meeting at 6:30, where the topic will be an insurance program for residents’ underground utility lines, and the regular council meeting at 7:30.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, administrators of the Community Development program, had told the city to plan for a 2 percent reduction in block grant funds this year, said Rickie Yeager, city development director.

However, the city will receive is $784,820, a 3.8 percent decline, he said.

In addition, funding for the Parkersburg-Wood County H.O.M.E. Consortium, which was originally projected to remain stable, will drop by 2.9 percent to $264,181.

Yeager attributed the reductions to one or two additional entitlement communities being added in West Virginia and money being redistributed.

“There’ll be less money available for programs such as minor home repairs, emergency home repairs and our owner-occupied house rehab program,” Yeager said.

The rehab program falls under the HOME Consortium and is available to eligible participants in the city or the county. The other programs are for city residents.

Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell said the decline in CDBG funds continues a trend.

“At one time, we received $1.7 million,” he said. “This money is not a gift from Congress. This is just a very small percentage of the money we taxpayers here send to Washington.”

Yeager plans to present a revised CDBG budget to the Finance Committee Tuesday.

Some CDBG funds are used to pay a portion of the salaries for Yeager and other development department employees, but Newell said that burden is being shifted more to the general fund as the entitlements have decreased. Other uses for the funds include paying off fire trucks based in qualifying low- to moderate-income neighborhoods and funding curb cuts for wheelchair access on sidewalks.

After the finance meeting, the Public Works Committee will hear about a program offered through the National League of Cities that insures water, gas and sewer lines. If the committee refers it to City Council and council endorses it, the group would have permission to mail offers for the coverage to city residents, said council President John Rockhold.

Rockhold said he’s seen other programs that offer to insure water and gas lines, but not sewer. He recently dealt with an expensive sewer line repair at his father’s house.

“If we agree to it I will be the first guy to plunk my money down for it,” Rockhold said.

The full council agenda has just three items on it, two of them first readings of ordinances that would give the city the option of hiring qualified civilians as chief fire inspector and public education-assistant fire inspector if a suitable candidate was not found internally. That’s something the city has struggled with since firefighters can make more money working 54-hour shifts than the 40-hour chief inspector schedule.

The other item is a resolution designating April as Fair Housing Month.