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Posted: 01/23/13

Communities to receive
extra CDBG funds

by CHRIS GRAY
Observer Staff Writer
      Local communities are readying themselves to deal out three times the normal amount of federal grant dollars, while others will not receive any for at least a year.
       Changes made to the distribution policy of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds will provide communities with three year's worth of money to hand out, but will only provide certain communities with funds this year.
       CDBG funds are provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to promote development. The funds must be used to assist low and moderate income individuals or prevent blight.
       The Macomb County Planning and Economic Development (MCPED) department is in charge of receiving the CDBG funds, garnering about $1.7 million a year. The MCPED decided to change its distribution policy in September to take effect this year.
       Steve Cassin, MCPED executive director, said the changes produce two benefits. The first is a reduction to county administrative expenses, while the second is to provide communities with more money at one time.
       "It allows them to get three times the money, but only every three years," he said. "It'll be staggered<some will get it this year, some on year two and some in year three."
       He said the county isn't obligated to distribute the funds to local communities, but chooses to do so.
       Carrie Fortune, MCPED associate planner, said the county is attempting to match up what each community would normally receive with the money given by the federal government.
       "We don't know until June or July the amount of money we'll receive," she said. "We've estimated the amount and came up with the money they'll get."
       Fortune said the staggering was based on determining how much each community would receive and how many projects were expected. She said any funds remaining after 18 months will be returned to the county to be re-distributed to other communities that have projects ready to go.
       Romeo will receive $90,000 next month, with plans to distribute the funds during its Feb. 11 meeting.
       Village Clerk Marian McLaughlin said alongside organizations such as MCREST or Parks and Recreation, the village can look into investing funds for sidewalk improvements or road repairs east of Van Dyke.
       "We have 18 months to use the funds if you use it toward a village project, and anyone that you distribute it to has 12 months to use it," McLaughlin said.
       Bruce Township set its public hearing for Feb. 13 to distribute about $110,000. Clerk Susan Brockmann was leery about the new policy, saying it could prevent funding future endeavors.
       "Administratively it makes it easier, however, it's going to be harder because typically we have a lot of money left over," Brockmann said. "What if a project comes up two years later?"
       Washington and Ray townships won't receive their CDBG funds until 2014. Washington Township Clerk Kathy Bosheers was in favor of the new arrangement, saying it provides time and funds to devote to larger projects like drainpipes or sidewalks.
       "In Washington Township, if we're given $30,000, finding a project that qualifies based on low to middle income is sometimes difficult," she said. "We can make more of an impact using CDBG funds this way than the other way it was funded."


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