By Maddy Vitale
The city hosted a public hearing Monday to hear what ideas the public had for utilizing federal Community Development Block Grant funds to improve the quality of life for low to moderate income residents.
However, no one from the public showed up. Officials overseeing the hearing explained to two reporters and a city official, who were the only ones in the audience, some of their past projects using grant funds and gave examples of some ways funding for the upcoming year could be spent.
Christine Gunderson, the city’s manager of Capital Planning, and city consultant Alex Curio, a senior associate at TRIAD Associates in Vineland, were the speakers.
They discussed ways that the funds could be used under specific guidelines of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and what their focus is for a five-year consolidated plan and the plan for 2019.
Gunderson explained that the city needs to have a plan in place by July for roughly $290,000 in CDBG funds that it will receive.
But first, there will be a second public hearing in June, which will include a draft of potential projects to give people an opportunity to voice their opinions.
While the focus is on 2019 and how the grant funds will be used, officials will still need to submit a five-year plan to HUD with specifics broken down for each year, officials said.
“We are looking to get ideas for the five-year plan,” Gunderson noted.
Ocean City intends to submit the 2019-2024 Consolidated Plan and 2019 Annual Action Plan on or about July 15.
Both Gunderson and Curio detailed the use of grant money for the 2018-19 fiscal year and how a portion of it is being used to install a new roof on the city’s Bayside Center, located at 520 Bay Ave. The cost is approximately $130,000 for the new roof.
There are other projects being done to the Bayside Center, which was built in 1916, including work to put in a new fire suppression system for an additional cost covered by a CDBG grant.
Gunderson said she could supply the exact figure for that project, but noted that it was all part of the grant funds received for the 2018 fiscal year, which was the same amount as projected for 2019.
Curio and Gunderson also outlined some of the ways the funding has limitations.
While CDBG funding could be secured to renovate an existing structure or area, it does not apply to new construction.
Curio explained that the Bayside Center qualifies for funding in part because it is a public facility and is located within an area where there is low and moderate income housing.
Funds could also be used to help senior citizens or people with disabilities.
A couple of years ago, funding went toward adding handicap-accessible ramps to the Bayside Center.
Overall, Curio said the program is very flexible.
“Assistance could be that you are improving the street in a moderate to low income neighborhood,” he added.
For more information contact Christine Gundersen, manager of the city’s Capital Planning, at (609) 525-9360 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. People may also contact Alex Curio, senior associate at TRIAD Associates, at 856-690-9590.