Editorial: Grant should have been spent as planned

Published 10:13 pm Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Niles City Administrator Ric Huff said the city “got behind the eight ball a little” in spending its federal Community Development Block Grant funds from 2010.

We believe the city dropped the eight ball.

More than $100,000 of the $408,500 awarded to the city in fiscal year 2010 has gone unspent. In order to comply with federal regulations, the city must spend $50,000 of it by May 2 or risk losing it.

Among the uncompleted projects supposed to be funded by CDBG were a downtown beautification project, a homeless intervention program and a Ferry Street Resource Center improvement project.

None of these projects were completed and the money went unspent. The city should have had city employees or outside agencies responsible for completing the projects to ensure the money was spent in a timely manner. There should have been deadlines in place to have the projects completed.

Now, instead of the originally planned projects, City Administrator Ric Huff has recommended a $100,000 sidewalk project that will make intersections in the city handicap accessible and bring them in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

This project needs to be done by April 30 in order for the money to be spent by the May 2 deadline. This tight deadline will likely drive up the cost charged by the contractor chosen for the project.

While we think it is a valuable project, it appears to be a “Hail Mary” play by the city to unload this money by the deadline. The city deserved to have the money spent where it was allocated, as recommended by a citizens committee and approved by the city council.

We are pleased to hear the CDBG action plan process is being revamped and will get the ball rolling earlier to avoid this time crunch again.

This editorial represents the views of the editorial board.