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HUD TO SEND $685,000 FOR COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT

The Town of Amherst will receive $685,000 in federal funds this year for community improvements.

The funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development are in the form of community development block grants that HUD gives annually to aid lower- to moderate-income households or neighborhoods.

As in the past, Amherst will use some of the funds -- $186,570 -- for deferred-housing loans so low- to moderate-income property owners can fix up their homes, said Richard K. Leimbach, an associate town planner who handles Amherst's block grant program.

Each year, the town gives out about 35 of the rehabilitation loans -- up to $15,000 each -- to qualified homeowners. The loans are paid back when the homes are sold, Leimbach said.

A consortium of three towns -- Amherst, Cheektowaga and Tonawanda -- will divide an additional $979,000 this year from HUD's Home Investment Partnership Program. That would give Amherst more than $320,000 extra for housing-rehabilitation loans and its program for first-time home buyers.

The $685,000 in community development block grant money that Amherst will receive this fiscal year, which starts April 1, is $13,000 less than the town received last year.

Nonetheless, Amherst will continue to use the federal money -- about $30,000 this year -- for sidewalk repairs in neighborhoods that meet the program's income guidelines, according to the program's budget.

In addition, $3,000 has been set aside for a community-inspection program, Leimbach said. Those funds -- combined with more than $30,000 in grant money left over from previous years -- will be used to pay for either two part-time building inspectors or overtime for existing inspectors, who will devote time to cracking down on properties and neighborhoods slipping into deterioration, said Amherst Building Commissioner Thomas C. Ketchum.

This year's community development block grant budget is expected to be approved by the Town Board early next month.

Amherst also plans to use the federal money for:

Removing and replacing decaying trees along streets, $10,000.

Ongoing installation of sidewalk ramps and curb cuts, $40,000.

Flood-control improvements to the Georgian Lane storm sewer, $25,000.

Spot repairs to the sanitary sewer system, from Oxford Avenue to Longmeadow Road, $60,000.

Spot repairs to the sanitary sewer system along the west side of Grover Cleveland and Millersport highways, $40,000.

Building a path from Bassett Park to the nearby senior citizens housing, $5,000.

Building an access ramp at the Cantalician Center Playground, $37,910.

Nominating up to 10 buildings for historic preservation, $5,000.

A transitional housing program for domestic violence victims, $2,500.

Paying salaries for a youth summer employment program, $5,000.

Providing a counseling program for youth through Catholic Charities Family Services, $39,170.

Paying for low-income youths to attend local summer camp programs, $7,500.

Counseling services for home buyers and renters, $2,000.

Counseling services for victims of housing discrimination, $5,000.

Helping to pay for a townwide master plan, $35,000.

Administrative costs for the block grant program, $98,400.

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