Niles gets $262K federal grantPublished 10:55pm Monday, February 27, 2012
It’s the closest Niles residents get to having a direct say in how the city government spends its money.
The Community Development Citizens Committee will meet Wednesday to discuss how this year’s federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding will be allocated.
“This is as close as it gets to a direct democracy,” said City Council member Dan VandenHeede at Monday night’s city council committee of the whole meeting. “This is really the only chance for the citizens to help decide how we use the money. They feel empowered by that.”
The committee of about eight city residents will discuss what it believes are the priorities for the city. City workers will then have an opportunity to review that input and make suggestions of their own.
The city council will review the recommendations and has the final say in how the funding will be used.
This year, Niles will receive about $262,000 in CDBG funds, compared to more than $307,500 last year.
Niles qualifies for the monies since it is an entitlement community, which is determined based on the extent of poverty, the population and the age of housing stock in the community.
Community Development Director Juan Ganum said about half the city is considered low to moderate income, a big factor in Niles qualifying for the program. Niles has been participating in the program since 2004. Benton Harbor is the only other community in Berrien County to qualify.
CDBG funding was critical several years ago in the “Big Brown Takedown” — the removal of brown siding from the facades of historic downtown buildings. The program has also helped fund the Ferry Street Resource Center, which provides community education, tutoring and employment training.
City Administrator Ric Huff said he hopes for the city council to discuss the CDBG budget at its next meeting March 12.Ganum said he is looking to expand the citizens committee in the future. He is also hoping for the committee to meet more than once a year, as it currently does.
Where’s the money going?
Here is how the city of Niles spent its Community Development Block Grant funding in 2011:
$96,415 — Sidewalk Improvement Program
$55,000 — Homeowner Assistance Program
$46,131 — Ferry Street Resource Center
$30,000 — Code enforcement
$20,000 — Main Street Kitchen Incubator
$5,000 — Bike park
$10,000 — Community Gardens project
$5,000 — Smoke detectors
$40,000 — Administration
Tags: City of Niles