Block Grant Money Allocated toward Kittanning Housing Rehab

Kittanning Borough Council President Randy Cloak during last night’s reconvened public meeting.

by Jonathan Weaver

Kittanning Borough officials are still hoping to use grant funds to repave a portion of a busy street – even if it may take some extra effort.

During the past few months, County Community Division Director Jennifer Bellas has been awaiting income surveys from Fair Street residents to reconstruct the street utilizing about $67,400 in Community Development Block Grant funds.

However, she said three weeks ago at the regular council meeting only about 16 percent of the responses of the 50 percent needed were received. And time was running out to utilize this year’s grant funding at all.

She suggested allocating the money toward a different benefit last night at a public hearing.

“Due to the lack of income surveys we’ve gotten for previous projects, we allocated funds toward rehab of single-unit residential (homes) – Borough-wide rehab,” Bellas said. “That type of a project would be 100 percent low-to-moderate income because we would do an income verification process – that’s why we can allocate (grant funding) toward that.”

Bellas will continue to receive Fair Street income surveys and will double-check if she is using accurate addresses. Two were thought to have been submitted since the public meeting three weeks ago.

“We only got 16 percent back,” Bellas said. “After three attempts, we talked it over and decided to come back to Council.”

Council officials inquired whether they can help in the matter to make sure the reconstruction can occur with the current grant funding.

“Other people can, but the approving board is not permitted because it can show an appearance of a conflict of interest,” Bellas said. “I have been asked, so I will check and let them know.”

Bellas will also check to see if Mayor Kirk Atwood could assist.

Department of Community and Economic Development officials extended the deadline for application submissions until March 5.

The application is expected to be approved by resolution at Monday’s public meeting.

In 2014, Kittanning Borough will be able to utilize about $67,400 – about $14,600 less than the total $82,000 received due to administration fees assessed by the county Planning and Development staff to assist.

Any complaints or grievances about the use of block grant funds in Kittanning Borough can be submitted by Friday.

Council President Randy Cloak was of the hopeful council members.

“I’m not convinced we’ve totally abandoned the project,” Cloak said. “I think we’re exploring ways that we can get these filled out and turned in so we can move forward with the project in the Spring. We did what we had to do tonight to shift that funding to a different project, but we definitely want to explore this more – I’m still committed to the Fair Street project.”

Council members are proposing to repair Fair Street (located near the entrance to Community Park) – between Orr and Johnston Avenues.

Since only 12-15 households face the roadway, a minimum of seven or eight residential income surveys need to be returned to meet the requirements.

Other street reconstruction projects are listed on the Borough’s three-year plan, as well as other community and recreational improvements. Alleys can also be reconstructed in-full through income surveys.

In other news, Solicitor Ty Heller said that any Borough enforcement over temporary, sidewalk advertisements would need modification of the current ordinance.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Borough Council members met in executive session with Solicitor Heller to discuss legal and personnel issues. Cloak announced an executive session January 21 to discuss personnel.