LIMA — City Council moved $35,000 from other city services Monday to fund a new grant writer position proposed by the United Way of Greater Lima.
The proposal was a request for funding through the city’s federal Community Development Block Grant allocation. The administration had not funded the position because of an overall reduction in the allocation and uncertainty about whether Lima will be included as an entitlement community in the future.
Council supported the request as it also approved the entire plan for CDBG and home assistance dollars.
Council supported the United Way request by a 6-1 vote with 1st Ward Councilman Kurt Neeper, who is a United Way board member, abstaining. Seventh Ward Councilwoman Paige Townsend voted no, saying she objected to taking money away from streets and curb improvements.
Neeper also abstained from the approval of the overall plan for spending, and while Townsend supported the overall plan, 3rd Ward Councilman Jesse Lowe II did not, resulting in another 6-1 vote with one abstention. Lowe said he supported the United Way’s request, but was opposed to the overall spending on administration. The 20 percent is allowed by federal rules.
United Way will match the city’s $35,000 with $35,000 of its own to create a new grant writer position to go after large grant opportunities for nonprofits and partnerships in the CDBG’s target area, President and CEO Philip Hayne said.
“It’s a great opportunity to bring more significant resources into the community and work in partnership with the city,” Hayne said. “The grant writer would be available to the community, including our partners and others we’d identify as appropriate. It’s our intent to make sure this position is continued on. We’re here to add value and additional resources on top of what is already being offered in the community.”
Hayne said he expects a return on investment could take two years, and he also expects the community measure the success of the effort on the amount of money brought into the community.
A number of councilors went into the meeting with lots of questions, but no decision made on the proposal. At the end of an hour-long discussion, the council voted to remove $10,000 from property maintenance costs, $10,000 from street and curb improvements and $15,000 from demolition. An original proposal would have taken the entire amount from street and curb improvements, with the thought that the administration could cover the cut with General Fund money.
Public Works Director Howard Elstro reminded the council that his department uses CDBG funding as leverage for other funds, and often gains $4 for every $1 of CDBG match money. Elstro also said the department has seen significant reductions, including equipment, vehicles and training and capital improvements, in recent years as the city made major cuts to the overall budget.
Councilors also suggested to Hayne that the United Way include Allen County and the commissioners in a request to help fund this position in the future. The county has a different process and criteria for its allocation and spending.
The city is losing 40 percent of its CDBG funding. The federal government is considering removing Lima from a list of cities that receives funding in five-year increments. When Lima dropped below 40,000 population, it was grandfathered in with the other large five-year entitlement communities. If the government removes Lima from the list, the city would have to compete for grant funding every year with a much larger pool of smaller communities.