National Community Development Week is taking place this week, celebrating Community Development Block Grants that help various local agencies do projects of importance. In Moab, such funding has helped to support Wingate Village and other projects.
The celebration was created in 1986 to bring attention to the CDBG program and its worth to the nation during a time when it was under scrutiny by Congress. The importance of these programs are demonstrated every year, when the Southeastern Utah Association of Local Governments sets asides money requested by communities for important projects.
“Today the CDBG program is vital to many communities in the area that the SEUALG administrates which includes San Juan, Grand, Emery and Carbon counties,” said Richard Shaw in a press release. “The money comes from the federal government and is sent originally to the state that then awards it to the various association of governments in the different regions of the state. Once there, the money is then applied for by cities or counties, and the award of the funds to those agencies is left up to a ‘Rating and Ranking Committee’ that uses a point system to score the requests. Once that is done the money is awarded to those that have been selected through the process.”
At SEUALG, the person that oversees the program is Jade Powell. Powell says there are many examples of projects that have been done in the last year, those that are presently being done and those in the pipeline for next year.
“For instance, the Carbon County Housing Authority wanted to do a refurbishing of Bookcliff Gardens in Wellington,” said Powell. “They applied for over $200,000 to do the project but we could only award them about $120,000. They have had to make some changes but are still doing some very good things with the money.”
The grant for that project actually went to Wellington City in Carbon County, so the housing authority there is the sub-recipient of that money. The rules for CBDG grants are that only cities or counties can directly apply for the funds, but non-profits and special service districts can ask those entities to apply for the money for them. Any money awarded has to benefit low- to moderate-income individuals. Those qualifications are evaluated by numbers concerning the adjusted median income of people that may benefit from any one project. There are places in the four-county area that are preapproved for the funds based on the last census, said Shaw. The general rule is that money can be granted if more than 51 percent of the people living in the area affected are considered low income.
Preapproved areas are already above that percentage so they qualify, but if an area is not, they must do what is called an income survey to find out if they qualify. Once completed, if the area is at 51 percent low income, then the agency can be awarded money for the project. There is a caveat to those rules however.
Said Powell, “If the project is for battered and abused spouses, children centers of various kinds, anything to do with seniors and things having to do with the American Disabilities Act or disabled individuals, income levels are not considered. For instance, last year the Ferron Senior Center was awarded $50,000 to do a carport so that the Meals on Wheels vehicles could be loaded safely and effectively in bad weather. That center is where the kitchen is located that prepares all the meals for western Emery County and where all the vehicles for that service are located and dispatched.”
Powell says another example is Wingate Village in Moab. The plan was to construct 22 units of three- to four-bedroom townhouses and 11 single housing units. The group applied not for the actual construction costs of the units, but for money to put in the infrastructure to support them. The amount needed for the project was over $3.4 million. SEUALG awarded CDBG money in the amount of about $350,000.
Other needs that are vital beyond construction can also be bought with the awarded funds. The Castle Dale Fire Department had some old equipment that needed to be replaced. It was purchased in 1971. Equipment that was old included the Jaws of Life, some Self Contained Breathing Apparatus units, and other items. “They applied for $30,000 and we were able to award them about $25,000 to replace most of that equipment,” said Powell.
Another award was the MAPS Project in Grand County where there are 36 senior apartments being built. In this case SEUALG helped with the engineering on the project.
For instance, Moab City is using money for ADA compliance at their city recreation center that includes a wheel chair lift and other amenities to aid the disabled. They will get $74,000 to help with that. Others that have been awarded include Price City that is building a wheel chair ramp into the basement of the city library and they received $37,000 to help supplement that project. Also, the Wellington City Fire Department will be purchasing some SCBAs and they are getting just over $87,000 for those. In Emery County, Castle Dale is putting in a Pickle Ball Court and they are being granted $30,000 for that. In addition, Huntington City will be doing ADA compliance at both the city park and their rodeo grounds this next year. They too got a $30,000 award.
“There was a time when CDBG money was largely awarded for housing projects only, but that has changed,” said Powell. “It is a competitive grant process”
Said Powell, “Last year we awarded over $708,000 to the four counties. That money went to nine projects, with at least one in every county. That was a total increase from the year before by $210,000.”
Each year the state gets between $4.5 and $5 million and that is divided up among the various associations of government in the state. It is split up using a formula that considers factors such as poverty rate, low- and middle-income levels, population, pre-1980 housing stock and the number of applicants that can apply for the money.