City seeking to tap into federal dollars

Published 5:17 pm Thursday, June 17, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- By being named an entitlement city, Niles is eligible to apply for a yearly source of federal financial support that can be used to improve quality of life here.
In December, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development selected Niles to be an entitlement city.
This designation makes the city eligible to be a part of the department's Community Development Block Grant Program, which means Niles is eligible to receive $397,000 per year for improvements in areas like neighborhood revitalization, economic development and community services.
The city is in the process of applying for those grant funds now.
He said the funding from the grant can only be used in a specific target area made up of residents with a low to moderate income.
This target area in Niles encompasses a significant portion of the city including the downtown area.
To design a consolidated plan for improvements in this area, the Niles City Council appointed a 13 member Community Development Citizens Committee, which is made up of residents of the target area and representatives of various agencies that serve the city.
At Monday's city council meeting, the committee presented its plan, which is a requirement for the city to receive the grant money. The plan must be submitted to the housing department by Aug. 16.
Tim Batton, director of The Greater Niles Community Development Corporation and one of the members of the citizens committee, said a benefit of being an entitlement city is that it allows the city to address some long awaited quality of life issues.
The fact that the money is a continuing and annual allocation, allows the city to have more efficient planning and a streamlining of projects, Batton said.
Some of the community needs identified by the committee in the target area include improved housing quality, economic development, job training and community resources and activities.
This year a majority of the money, $300,000, will go toward the streetscape project.
Twenty percent of the $397,000 goes toward non-project related administrative costs each year.
Some of the other proposed projects set out in the consolidated plan include: