Citizens’ requests answeredPublished 10:56pm Monday, April 9, 2012
It was a unique Niles City Council meeting Monday night.
Several residents spoke out against a resolution that would have cut a number of approved projects and reprogrammed much of the 2010 and 2011 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding to a $100,000 sidewalk ramp improvement project.
Among the projects on the chopping block were a $20,000 Cable Street Park improvement project, a $15,000 Ferry Street Resource Center building renovation project and $7,000 of the Main Street Business Incubator project.
After the council narrowly approved the resolution by a four to three vote, council member Robert Durm said he didn’t understand exactly what he had voted for and presented a motion to rescind the resolution. After that motion passed, the council then unanimously agreed to an amended action plan that included the Cable Street Park, Ferry Street Resource Center and Main Street Business Incubator projects.
It was met by applause by the audience of more than 25.
The amendment also reduced the sidewalk ramp improvement project to $78,000 and the Homeowner Assistance Program was cut from $75,000 to $55,000.
Diane Bass was one of the residents who encouraged the council to maintain the funds for the Ferry Street Resource Center renovations.
“The center very much needs that money. Ferry Street is extremely important to the community,” she said, adding that at least 15 students were at the center that night participating in adult education classes.
Lisa Busby, the director of the Ferry Street Resource Center, said if the improvements to the building aren’t made, the computer lab could be shut down.
Betty Arndt, a Niles resident and former city council member who has spearheaded the effort to improve Cable Street Park, urged the council to not cut the project.
“Our park has lost plenty of equipment over the years,” she said. “I just really want my park … Please give us our money.”
Brent Wright, who lives in the Cable Street Park neighborhood, pointed out the park used to have basketball hoops, a backstop and a merry-go-round, all of which have been removed and not replaced.
“The neighborhood needs this bad,” he said. “The little guys don’t have anything to do.”
City Administrator Ric Huff told reporters after the meeting that the city would find a way to bump the sidewalk ramp improvement project back up to $94,500, since the department of public works had already gone out for bids at that price. He said he was unsure whether the money would come from the general fund, a contingency fund or elsewhere.
The reprogramming of the CDBG funds was a result of a May 2 deadline from the federal government to spend $50,000 of unspent funds from 2010 and 2011 or risk losing them. Huff said the sidewalk project was “shovel ready” and a way to spend the money quickly.