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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Committee may meet all Nashua CDBG requests this year despite 5 percent decrease in funds, officials said

NASHUA – Aldermen were pleasantly surprised last week when they learned the city likely will have enough Community Development Block Grant funds and HOME grants to fully meet all requests from community groups this year.

Although the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development anticipates a 5 percent decrease in the amount of federal funds it will provide Nashua for fiscal 2014, the aldermanic Human Affairs Committee estimates it will have enough money to cover all of the community’s requests this year. ...

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NASHUA – Aldermen were pleasantly surprised last week when they learned the city likely will have enough Community Development Block Grant funds and HOME grants to fully meet all requests from community groups this year.

Although the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development anticipates a 5 percent decrease in the amount of federal funds it will provide Nashua for fiscal 2014, the aldermanic Human Affairs Committee estimates it will have enough money to cover all of the community’s requests this year.

Those funds would come from fiscal 2014 dollars and money left over from previous years.

“I’m still in shock,” said Alderman-at-Large Lori Wilshire, who chairs the committee and works at the Nashua Children’s Home. “This is good.”

Originally, the city’s Urban Programs Department anticipated an 8 percent to 10 percent decrease in its CDBG funding from the HUD – estimating a CDBG award of about $493,000 for its fiscal 2014. It also anticipated level funding to its HOME Program, or about $245,300.

In a March 4 letter to Lozeau, however, HUD reported that it is anticipating a 5 percent reduction to programs such as CDBG, HOME, Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS, and Emergency Solutions Grants for the homeless, as a result of the $85 billion federal sequestration order.

According to a memo from Community Development Director Kathy Hersh, 20 percent of the city’s CDBG award may go toward program administration, along with 10 percent of the HOME award.

The memo also said a maximum of 15 percent of CDBG funds can go toward public service projects and $100,000 could go toward a housing improvement program, which would leave $228,221 in CDBG funds and about $130,000 in HOME funds for community requests if the programs are funded and dollars are allocated according to their estimated levels.

The exact amount of funding Nashua will receive will be set at a later date, said Carrie Johnson Schena, manager for the city’s Urban Programs Department.

“We don’t have our actual allocation number yet, we have to estimate based on last year’s award,” Schena said. “It’s sort of a moving target until we get our final number from HUD.”

What is set in stone are the number of external agencies – along with the city – that have applied for CDBG funds this year. The deadline for applications was Jan. 25.

The six applications the city received this year are only about half what it usually gets, Schena said.

“I was quite surprised,” she said. “I really couldn’t say” why there were fewer applicants.

The committee will deliberate and determine the merit of each application as it relates to the city’s consolidated plan, Schena said. In total, city agencies have requested $160,221 in federal funds this year.

Among the requests is one for $50,000 from the Nashua Children’s Home for carpeting at its 125 Amherst St. facility, which houses 34 young people and includes offices, common areas and classrooms.

Bridges Domestic & Sexual Violence Support, which has provided more than 4,000 bed nights over the past year to women and children, officials said, requested about $26,000 to fund a fence, gutters, a new stove, kitchen upgrades and an upgrade at its main offices at 33 E. Pearl St.

The Adult Learning Center requested $34,300 for a cost-sharing solution to help fund a new retaining wall on site.

The Tolles Street Mission is looking for $15,000 for siding; the Youth Council needs $32,700 for lighting; and New Hampshire Legal Assistance requested $3,000 for fair housing outreach and education.

The city also has its share of requests; CDBG funds are used to develop the community on different levels and can be put toward projects such as parks and recreation improvements.

In a memo to the committee, Lozeau requested $65,000 in federal funds – half of which could come from reprogrammed funds from the previous year.

It includes $50,000 for solar-powered lights from Walnut to Palm streets to illuminate the Rail Trail; $5,000 to repair the concrete entry to 14 Court St. and $10,000 for the city’s Neighborhood Impact Funds.

This week, the Human Affairs Committee will take several site walks for the various requests before recommending what to fund, also depending on the final federal dollars HUD approves for Nashua. It held a public hearing about CDBG funding in February.

The committee must have its CDBG plan sent to HUD by May 15, Schena said. Ultimately, the full Board of Aldermen will need to approve the requests.

“I don’t think I’ve seen this – ever,” said Wilshire, referring to the committee’s ability to possibly meet all of the requests for funds, according to meeting minutes. “It is a relief.”

Maryalice Gill can be reached at 594-6490 or mgill@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Gill
on Twitter (@Telegraph_MAG).