Several area residents have suggestions on how the city should spend its Community Development Block Grant money.
Recently, they had their say during an open public forum session.
The federal Community Development Block Grant program stipulates that at least 70 percent of CDBG must be used for low-to-moderate-income benefit activities and no more than 30 percent of funds can be used for slums and blighted areas. Activities that are ineligible include the development of buildings for the general conduct of government, political activities, equipment purchases and general operating, maintenance and salary expenses of local governments.
At top, Vince DeJoy, Jamestown director of development, listens at a public forum to determine the best use of Community Development Block Grant money.
P-J photos by Ryan Atkins
"After this meeting, we'll begin to formulate a plan," said Vince DeJoy, director of development. "We're about a month and a half behind because I just started at the end of February, but we'll have another public hearing with the City Council where we'll present the plan, which will probably happen in the next two weeks. From there, the plan will go to the City Council for review, then we submit the entire application to the Department of Housing and Urban Development for approval."
According to DeJoy, the Jamestown Urban Renewal Agency is working with roughly $1 million in total CDBG and HOME funding this year, but that number may be subject to part of what is going on in Washington in regard to the sequester. A decade ago, the city had access to nearly $2 million. The need in Jamestown, however, hasn't diminished over the last 10 years.
Over the last 10 years, Jamestown has allocated nearly $22 million of CDBG and HOME funds to a slew of projects including, but not limited to, the Eastside YMCA, Chadakoin Park, the Court Appointed Special Advocates program, the downtown facade project, targeted demolitions and a residential wheelchair ramp program.
Although DeJoy will be looking for further clarification from HUD about the capacity that the funds will be able to be used on projects such as Lillian Dickson Park, he said that he doesn't want to make any promises just yet.
"It was a pleasant surprise, seeing so many people come out for this meeting," said DeJoy. "There's a long list of things that we'll be looking at after tonight. We may have the ability to do more than originally thought, but I don't want to, and can't, make any promises yet. I want to keep this group energized and engaged. I am confident that we can do something significant."
LILLIAN DICKSON PARK
Paula Hofgren, a resident from the north side of Jamestown that was involved with the recent upgrades at Roseland Park, came to the meeting to ask for upgrades at Lillian Dickson Park, located near Falconer and Sturges streets.
"It's a high traffic area and a lot of kids play in and around the area of the park," said Hofgren. "There have been deaths there because it's not as safe as it should be, and the traffic pattern is such that the area is in need of safety upgrades, like slowing the traffic and putting up signs. Parents that I've been working with are very concerned about the safety of their children. They're hesitant to take their families there because of vandalism and drugs. I know the city's funds are limited, but we could really use their help and I think that this area needs it."
According to Hofgren, a new design for a park has already been created and the group that is leading the way in upgrading the park has already applied for grants to help fund the renovations, as well.
Andrew Dixon of the Chautauqua County Health Network was also at the meeting to speak about the "Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work and Play" initiative of the New York State Department of Health.
"(The initiative) is working closely with a variety of partners to create policies, systems and environmental changes to increase the access to healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity," said Dixon. "One important area of involvement of Creating Healthy Places is the renovation of Lillian Dickson Park and we strongly support the city helping with the purchase of handicap-accessible playground equipment."
The Chautauqua County Health Network also requested assistance with the creation of a high-visibility crosswalk at the intersection of Crescent and Second streets, restenciling of the school stencils on Buffalo Street near Washington Middle School and C.C. Ring Elementary School, and the replacement of sidewalks on Sturges Street.
Kurt Carlson of Northside PRIDE, said that the most necessary improvements on the north side of town were primarily infrastructure problems, the most critical of which are broken curbs that result in soil runoff, uneven sidewalks, unsafe thoroughfares for pedestrians and severe deviations in the road that make it unsafe for drivers and bicyclists.
Legislator Tim Hoyer, D-District 14, proposed a number of possible uses for the funds, including a facelift to North Main Street that would involve painting and siding every home, as well as the creations of gardens through the entire stretch in order to make it a more aesthetically pleasing corridor to the downtown area. Hoyer also suggested the creation of a larger, more accessible space for the farmers market, bike paths for commuters that would make most of the downtown area pedestrian-only, and making all parking lanes green space. The addition of more public transportation within the city would reduce the number of people needing to drive to work, as well, according to Hoyer.
Mary Maxwell, neighborhood project associate at the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation, was on hand to speak to everyone attending the meeting about the Renaissance Block Challenge, a program that provides matching funds for groups of homeowners that are looking to make upgrades to their properties. The funding to the program had been reduced, however, so she asked for it to be considered that a portion of the CDBG and HOME funds be directed towards that initiative in order to maintain the current level of services.