CDBG funding decisions enter final deliberations
PORTLAND —The committee responsible for recommending which local programs and nonprofits get pieces of the city's $2.3 million federal community development funds will meet with City Manager Joseph Gray this week to finalize those choices.
A new allocation process was used this year to determine which programs and services within the city's qualifying low- and middle-income neighborhoods should receive Community Development Block Grant funding. Using a point system designed by a task force in 2007 and approved by the City Council in October 2008, the CDBG Annual Allocations Committee spent several months reviewing applications and rating them on four criteria: guiding principals, priority impact areas, capacity to deliver (past performance or readiness and preparedness) and collaboration and coordination with other organizations and the city.
The funds are broken down within three areas: social services, development, and planning and administration. The city's division of Housing and Neighborhood Services and the CDBG planning program are funded through the planning and administration portion of CDBG money.
The 32 applications for social services funding requested a total of $1.15 million. In preliminary recommendations from the allocations committee, 21 applicants were selected to receive portions of the $718,000 available.
Several programs that have received CDBG funds in the past did not score high enough, including the Peaks Island Children's Workshop and the Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization's Neighborhood Services Corp. program.
While none of the programs recommended for funding are earmarked for the full amounts they requested, most are within a few thousand dollars of their requests. Among new programs recommended include a community outreach and crime watch program for the East Bayside Neighborhood Organization and a similar program in the West End, spearheaded by Mercy Hospital, but involving the West End Neighborhood Association and Maine's Immigrant and Refugee Association.
Amy Grommes Pulaski, the manager for the city's Housing and Community Development Program, said the Mercy program was created in response to the shooting death last summer of hospital guard James Angelo.
Pulaski, along with city spokeswoman Nicole Clegg, stressed that the recommendations are preliminary and will not be final until after the allocations committee meets with Gray on Friday at noon at City Hall. Gray makes his own set of recommendations, which have in past years been mostly in line with the committee. A public hearing on the recommendations is scheduled for March 23 at 5 p.m. in City Council chambers. The council will vote on the recommendations in April.
In the category that funds physical improvements, the city had several sidewalk reconstruction applications that did not qualify for funding, and almost all of the projects selected for funding are city requests. A $55,000 request to improve the Valley Street Dog Park and surrounding area was not recommended for funding, along with $200,000 for a pedestrian bridge in Deering Oaks Park.
Besides the city requests, the Boys and Girls Club of Maine are recommended for $60,000 in funding to build a new facility at Sagamore Village.
The Abyssinian Meeting House did not make the cut in preliminary recommendations for funding, nor did the Maine Irish Heritage Center in its request for funds for an elevator. Greater Portland Landmarks asked for $60,000 to make handicapped-access upgrades to its State Street building, which it may purchase, but the request did not score high enough.
The restaurant Hot Suppa asked for funding to buy kitchen equipment that would allow it to open for dinner and in return hire about eight new employees. The application is not recommended for funding.
Finally, Schlotterbeck & Foss, the condiment and sauce canning plant that has been in Bayside since 1866, requested $216,000 in matching funds to make the building it leases energy efficient, along with other structural improvements. Pulaski said the company told the committee that without the funding, the rent being charged by a new landlord is too high and the company will have to move out of Bayside. The request is not recommended for funding.
The Portland Independent Business and Community Alliance, which runs the Portland Buy Local Campaign, requested $15,000 from the Planning and Administration category to perform a study to determine the importance of local businesses. The request is not recommended for funding.