LIMA — A hodgepodge of policy suggestions surrounding housing, food deserts, small businesses, job training and crime were on display during Thursday night’s public hearing discussing potential allocations of Community Development Block Grant dollars.
The federal CDBG program, together with the related HOME program, makes available roughly $1.4 million annually to Lima-based organizations in order to benefit low- to moderate-income populations. The City of Lima, which determines allocation levels, is currently accepting feedback on what programs need to be prioritized.
Held online due to state restrictions, a total of 13 residents either signed in or called into the hour-long meeting, but actual participation among residents outside of official channels was relatively sparse. Only four residents, barring Lima city councilors and officials, actually spoke on the call, although a few more listened in on the sidelines.
Topics discussed ran the gamut.
Tim Callahan, president of the Lima African American Chamber of Commerce, requested available dollars be funneled into a potential small business grant program. He contested that strong neighborhoods need strong small businesses to attract customers and residents into an area in order to grow naturally, and some small business owners don’t always qualify for more typical financial products.
“We can put the money in curbs and sidewalks, but if there’s nobody using those curbs and sidewalks, what’s the point?” Callahan said.
Investor Tod Wells, who currently operates in Shawnee Township, said he would like to see more dollars go toward public safety and crime prevention. He said that investment in Lima has been slow due to crime in the city, and if investors knew that their investments would be safe, they’d be more willing to spend the dollars.
“We need good landlords that aren’t slumlords. If you get good investors that keep up property values, we certainly want those people,” Wells said.
Other private callers put emphasis on the need for better access to fresh food for some neighborhoods located in the south end of Lima. The issue is especially difficult for those without vehicles who have to spend an entire afternoon lining up with public transit and then walking sometimes miles between a residence and the closest bus stop, Councilor Jamie Dixon said.
Other overarching talking points among participants included the need for more investment into job training for young people, encouraging the creation of community centers like the Bradfield Center throughout the city and trying to get more people to own their own homes.
“If a single mom is able to move into a nice house and a nice yard, it brings some confidence in themselves,” Elizabeth Curtis, a Lima resident, said. “It’s a mind thing. If you know better, you do better.”
Those interested in giving their feedback to the city about CDBG allocations still have a chance to do so if they missed the Thursday night online meeting. A second online public hearing is scheduled for Monday, June 1, from 5:30 p.m. from 7 p.m.
Lima residents are also being encouraged to take an online survey located at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/LimaOH, which informs program planners.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.