CDBG funds and mowing on committee agenda

By Josh Ellerbrock -

LIMA — Before the grass gets a chance to start growing too high this summer, Lima Council Neighborhood Concerns Committee met to discuss what actions City Council could do now to ensure processes undertaken in the spring and summer are improved from past city actions.

Led by committee chair Jamie Dixon, the committee considered two separate issues Monday night — citizen input into the Community Development Block Grant allocation process and the city’s mowing contract, especially for the roughly 500 specified lots maintained by the city.

Dixon brought up concerns with the city’s current use of CDBG and HOME funds earlier this year when the city used a portion to tear down a downtown building. Now, Dixon is hoping to find a better way to get low- to middle-income residents involved in the allocation process by creating a Citizens Review Board that would provide input outside of the standard public meetings and public comment session.

Community Development Director Susan Crotty expressed hesitancy in adding another layer of public input, especially when it is already difficult to engage the public concerning the issue.

Councilor Derry Glenn said CDBG fund allocation is far from a new concern for council as plenty of tweaks have been made over the years, but the board is a worthy endeavor to ensure funds are used by groups best helping low- to middle-income residents.

“We feel a review board would be better. When you talk to their cities, they have better ways of dealing with it,” Glenn said.

After holding public information sessions, CDBG allocations are drafted by the city based on the applications received, which are then officially approved by Lima City Council after public input. Crotty said the city typically allocates at least a portion of funds to each eligible applicant.

Dixon moved the issue of a citizens review board back to City Council and asked the city’s law department to draft potential legislation to be considered.

For the second initiative on the agenda, the committee asked questions about the city’s mowing contract.

According to Dixon, the city’s current mowing contractor, Northwest Property Maintenance, is moving too quickly to ensure specified lots are mowed correctly, and that they will often leave grass clippings in yards, which then could be used by rodents as nesting.

“When those contractors go through, they blow through,” Dixon said.

But as Crotty explained, the contractor isn’t expected to maintain laws up to that requirement due to the extra expense.

Currently, the city pays roughly $40,000 annually out of its general fund to supplement the $200,000 it receives through property maintenance fines passed onto absentee property owners.

To include the additional removing of grass clippings in the city’s three-year mowing contract, Crotty asked the committee for a week to talk to the city’s law department and auditor to better understand what steps it could take to include that provision so late in the bidding process.

By Josh Ellerbrock

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

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