WEIRTON – City Council met in business on Wednesday evening, focusing on issues surrounding Weirton’s community development block grant awards.
The Board reviewed and distributed funds for the CDBG fiscal year 2022-2023 budget, as well as discussed two substantive amendments, reprogramming funds from two previous fiscal years.
“We’re kind of under the gun a bit,” Planning and Development Director Mark Miller said funding applications were 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 allocations discussed Wednesday night for the 2022-23 fiscal budget, the council offered to provide $60,000 for program administration and $2,000 for a fair housing program.
The council also split $60,814 among certain social services requests, with officials noting that the city is limited to 15% of the total budget for those programs.
Ward 7 Councilman Terry Weigel recommended reviewing municipal programs first before providing funds to outside agencies.
“I look at what we do for city services” he said.
It was recommended that the police department receive $35,000 for its foot patrol program, including $10,000 to the Parks Board to provide free passes to eligible residents for the Millsop Community Center and $2,000 for sports leagues provided by Parks and Recreation.
Christopher Fletcher of Urban Design Ventures, who for several years consulted for the city on the CDBG program, warned the council that the US Department of Housing and Urban Development has turned down proposals for community policing programs in most cities, so the foot patrol program may not be guaranteed.
It is proposed that the Weirton Christian Center receive $7,000, with the remaining funds for social services going to A Child’s Place CASA.
Council has proposed to allocate $232,618.05 to paving eligible CDBG streets next spring and $50,000 towards a potential park development or improvement project.
The park project led to some of the changes, with Fletcher explaining that there was $194,585 from the previous two fiscal years scheduled for the creation of a park or green space in the city’s downtown area, but the project had not progressed. The funds must be used by next spring, however, or Weirton could see his annual CDBG stipend reduced, he said.
“It’s a very serious situation” Fletcher explained, noting that the possible reduction is almost half of the city’s current CDBG budget.
Fletcher and City Manager Mike Adams have offered to use previously scheduled funds to cover a paving program in the fall of this year.
“We all know our roads are terrible” Adams said, noting that Director of Public Works Rod Rosnick assessed eligible streets and came up with a plan to deal with areas in four of the city’s seven neighborhoods.
In addition to unused funds intended for paving, it was recommended that unused funds from CDBG-CV, provided to the city to meet community needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic, be used to assist the Greater Weirton Senior Center to buy and installation of a new heating/ventilation/air conditioning system.
The allocation for the senior center would be $291,321.
“It’s free money, but we have to tie it to COVID,” Adams said, adding that it was difficult for the groups receiving these funds to fully meet the requirements set by the federal government for their use.
Fletcher noted that current plans are to announce the budgets and proposed amendments for public comment next week, and bring them before the board for final approval at the Aug. 8 meeting.