CDBG funding discussed in Weirton Council work session | News, Sports, Jobs

FUNDING TALK — Weirton Council met in a work session Wednesday to discuss requests for funds under the Community Development Block Grant program for the 2022-23 fiscal year, as well as two amendments for previously programmed funds under two past fiscal years. — Craig Howell

WEIRTON — City Council convened in a work session Wednesday evening, focusing on issues surrounding Weirton’s Community Development Block Grant allotments.

Council reviewed and distributed funds for the 2022-23 fiscal year CDBG budget, as well as discussed two substantial amendments, reprogramming funds from two previous fiscal years.

“We’re kind of under the gun a little bit,” Planning and Development Director Mark Miller said, noting funding requests had been submitted in February, but the Planning Department, which oversees the CDBG program for the city, was vacant until he came on board in April.

As part of the allotments discussed Wednesday night for the 2022-23 fiscal budget, council has proposed providing $60,000 toward administration of the program, and $2,000 toward a Fair Housing program.

Council also divided $60,814 among select social services requests, with officials noting the city is limited to 15 percent of the total budget for those programs.

Ward 7 Councilman Terry Weigel recommended looking at municipal programs first before providing funds to outside organizations.

“I look to what are we doing for city services,” he said.

It was recommended the police department receive $35,000 for its foot patrol program, with $10,000 going to the Parks Board to provide free passes to eligible residents for the Millsop Community Center, and $2,000 for sports leagues provided through Parks and Recreation.

Christopher Fletcher, of Urban Design Ventures, which has served for several years as a consultant for the city on the CDBG program, warned council the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has been denying proposals for community policing programs in most cities, so the foot patrol program may not be guaranteed.

The Weirton Christian Center is proposed to receive $7,000, with the remaining funds for social services going to A Child’s Place CASA.

Council has proposed setting up $232,618.05 for the paving of CDBG-eligible streets next spring, and $50,000 toward a possible park development or improvement project.

The park project led to a portion of the amendments, with Fletcher explaining there was $194,585 from the two previous fiscal years programmed for the creation of a park or greenspace in the city’s downtown, but the project had not gone forward. The funds need to be used by next spring, though, or Weirton could see its annual CDBG allotment reduced, he said.

“This is a very serious situation,” Fletcher explained, noting the possible reduction represents almost half of the city’s current CDBG budget.

Fletcher and City Manager Mike Adams proposed using the previously programmed funds to cover a fall paving program this year.

“We all know our roads are terrible,” Adams said, noting Public Works Director Rod Rosnick had evaluated eligible streets and had a proposed plan to attend to areas in four of the city’s seven wards.

In addition to the unused funds going toward paving, it was recommended unused CDBG-CV funds, provided to the city to assist with needs in the community related to the COVID-19 pandemic, be put toward assisting the Greater Weirton Senior Center in purchasing and installing a new Heating/Ventilation/Air Conditioning system.

The allotment for the senior center would be $291,321.

“It’s free money, but we have to tie it back to COVID,” Adams said, adding it has been difficult for groups awarded these funds to fully meet the requirements established by the federal government for their use.

Fletcher noted current plans are to advertise the proposed budgets and amendments for public comment next week, and have it go before council for its final approval at the Aug. 8 meeting.

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