Where’s my park money?Published 3:58pm Thursday, April 5, 2012
Betty Arndt loves Cable Street Park.
The Niles resident and former city council member appreciates the convenient location to her 3rd Ward neighborhood.
But she says the park has been in need of improvements for a long time.
“We feel like the stepchild of parks,” she said. “We aren’t listed on the city Web page, we don’t have a sign identifying us as Cable Street Park, and we don’t have a trash can or picnic table.”
Arndt took it upon herself to change that in 2010, approaching the parks board, which told her if she could get the funds, it would undertake an improvement project.
Arndt was able to get the project added to the 2011 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) action plan with the city allocating $20,000 to the park improvements. The city receives CDBG funding from the federal government based on its high poverty level and aging housing stock.
But Arndt was shocked to find out last month the project, along with several others that were approved for CDBG funding, had been removed from the action plan.
The city council is expected next week to approve reprogramming much of the 2010 and 2011 CDBG funding to a $100,000 sidewalk improvement program, pending a public hearing Monday.
City officials say the move is necessary since there is a May 2 deadline to spend the CDBG funds or risk losing them.
Arndt said she was never notified by the city that the Cable Street Park project was being eliminated.
“I realize that in a $1 million budget the city manages that $20,000 seems like chump change, but to residents in the neighborhood of Cable Street Park, (it’s) like winning the Mega Millions,” Arndt said. “The community that helps you qualify for federal money doesn’t even get $20,000 to spend on a decent park.”
Arndt blames city officials for not being diligent in taking the proper steps to get the project done, including not getting an environmental study of the property completed.
Juan Ganum, Niles community development director, said the Cable Street Park project and several others had to be reduced or eliminated in order to make the sidewalk project a go.
City Administrator Ric Huff told the Star last month that the sidewalk project was “shovel ready” and a way of quickly spending the money before the deadline.
“There seems to be a misconception that this project failed due to lack of a ‘champion’ or that it was stuck in a bureaucratic quagmire,” Ganum said. “Neither is correct.”
City officials have indicated that this situation is unlikely to happen again, since now the CDBG action plan process will begin earlier.
The public hearing for the reallocation of CDBG funds is slated for 5:45 p.m. Monday.