Block grant funding gets OK

By Josh Ellerbrock -

Jon Neeper … voices concern

Jon Neeper … voices concern

LIMA — After multiple meetings, discussions and questionings, Lima City Council has officially approved its Community Development Block Grant allocations for 2020-2021.

Passed during a Monday night meeting scheduled specifically to approve the ordinance, the vote fell along the same lines as its first roll call except for the presence of Councilor Todd Gordon, who previously had been absent.

The final vote was 6 to 1 in favor of the ordinance. Councilor Jamie Dixon abstained due to a conflict of interest and Councilor Jon Neeper voted against the ordinance.

“I’m not happy with the way the money is being distributed,” Neeper said referencing past discussions and concerns from constituents.

Allocations of CDBG dollars has created disagreements between councilors in the past, and this year was no different as councilors had to compromise on final allocation amounts for the $1 million given to the city by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Under existing federal guidelines, dollars received by the city must be used to help low- to moderate-income individuals.

This year was somewhat unique in the number of new applicants looking for funds, and many were allocated dollars by the end of the process. They include $14,000 to the after-school initiative My Brother’s Keeper, $3,000 to Oheneba Youth Soccer summer camp, $12,000 to the Soldiers of Honor “boxing boot-camp” and another $12,000 to Youth for Change’s community engagement program focusing on teaching young people problem-based learning.

Jermaine Harper’s Startup Lab program, ran through Urban Impact Ohio, also saw an additional $21,000 allocated to the program to raise the its 2020-2021 budget to $51,000. According to its application, the Startup Lab focuses on teaching entrepreneurs the necessary business skills to get their enterprise’s off the ground.

Neeper has consistently spoken about his reservations concerning the program, and he requested copies of Harper’s invoices from the city to look at the program’s expenses in more detail.

In comparison, Dixon has called for more equal treatment of Harper, especially when his program’s stated goals have been more consistently met than other programs funded in the past by CDBG dollars.

Outside of these programs, over $500,000 of next year’s CDBG funds will go toward three city programs — code enforcement, administration of CDBG dollars and street/curb reconstruction.

Historically, the largest requests for dollars are usually made by the city’s public works department, which requires funds to adequately address the city’s aging infrastructure.

The public works department also requested roughly $1.2 million in demolition dollars to tear down blighted structures. It received $64,000 for next year and now has $200,000 to do so thanks to roll-over dollars.

With the final allocations now set, Council President John Nixon canceled Tuesday night’s meeting, which had been scheduled just in case council failed to pass the CDBG ordinance on Monday night’s second reading.

Jon Neeper … voices concern Neeper … voices concern

By Josh Ellerbrock

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

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