09/06/06 — Councilmen eye funding for project

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Councilmen eye funding for project

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on September 6, 2006 1:54 PM

With their eyes on a potential funding source for a new community building downtown, Goldsboro City Council members approved a budget amendment for the Community Development Block Grant and HOME Investment Partner-ship programs, at their meeting Monday.

Community Development coordinator Wilmur Conyers said adoption of the ordinance will permit expenditure, by her office, of funds totaling close to $700,000 for activities included under the city's CDBG and HOME programs.

Earlier this year, council members said other cities and municipalities have used CDBG money for projects similar to the proposed community building. Mrs. Conyers was asked to research the prospect of doing the same in Goldsboro and reported her findings -- and a letter from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development -- at a work session before Monday's meeting came to order.

"You cannot build a community center for the city at large (with CDBG money)," she said. "If you intend to use these funds, it must be to support the city's low to moderate income clientele. And you must be able to document that."

Goldsboro will receive $414,183 in CDBG funds and more than $250,000 in HOME funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development this year -- grants that will be used for housing rehabilitation, homebuyer assistance, demolition, public services, after school programs, public facilities and other projects that meet HUD guidelines.

Councilman Chuck Allen said he believes the community center project meets those guidelines. It will, for the most part, serve the low to moderate income residents of the city, he said, and thus, should be eligible to receive CDBG funds.

"If you look at where this thing is, you're not building a community center for the entire city," Allen said. "That's not what you're doing. You're building the community center for downtown. ... Everybody can use it, but it's for a specific area. If you look in that area, I think you'll find that the people in that geographical area are going to have that income."

The council's interest, he added, was in a yearly contribution of $100,000 for operational costs associated with the facility.

Mrs. Conyers said from her interpretation of HUD's guidelines, such a use of money would not be allowed. Still, there are aspects of the project that might be acceptable, she added.

"You can use funds for demolitions and other activities associated with cleaning up blight," she said. "So, if you have rundown areas that you're particularly talking about building on, you can use CDBG money to eliminate those slums and blight."

Allen said his interpretation of the letter was different and that he believes there is a way to show the community center project meets HUD's guidelines and is eligible for some funding through CDBG grants.

"To me, I'm not reading this as 'you can't do it,'" he said. "To me, it sounds like 'you can't do it unless you meet these criteria.'"