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PUBLIC TO AIR COMMENTS ON BLOCK GRANT PROPOSALS

The public will be able to comment on proposed uses of the city's anticipated $3.3 million in Community Development Block Grants at a hearing at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in City Hall.

Altogether, the Community Development Department will have just over $5 million to work with, including some categorical federal aid and its own program income.

The proposed spending plan must be approved by the City Council and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Housing needs are high on the list of priorities, with $1.5 million a year to be committed for five years under the city's Consolidated Plan and Strategy. The $750,000 allocation from the Home Investment Partnership Program (HOME) would be targeted for first-time buyers' assistance, according to John C. Drake, director of the Community Development Department. The department would keep $550,000 for its Urban Homesteading Program. Neighborhood Housing Services and Center City Neighborhood Development Corp. would receive $100,000 each.

The programs would provide assistance to first-time buyers at or below 80 percent of the median income in the form of subsidies, rehabilitation, low-interest mortgages or down payment and closing cost assistance. In the past few years, the HOME money has been used for multifamily units, such as the Vincent R. Morello Senior Citizen Housing.

Clean neighborhood and code enforcement efforts would receive $25,000 each. A housing inspector would be hired to go door to door in targeted areas to reinforce investments in housing by the city, Neighborhood Housing and Center City. The plan includes $24,000 toward two police officers' salaries for the Niagara Falls Housing Authority and $50,000 for security in the Memorial Medical Center parking ramp.

Administrative costs are budgeted at $400,000.

As usual, neighborhood development corporations and business associations would receive program assistance through the block grant program. No one got everything they wanted, but no one sustained major cuts, either, Drake said. The groups and their proposed funding are Neighborhood Housing, $100,000; Center City, $120,000; Faith Based Collaborative, $175,000; Little Italy project manager, $20,000; Niagara Street area coordinator, $10,000.

Economic-development efforts would receive $370,000 for loans to high-risk businesses from the NFC Development Corp. and the salaries of the staff of the Economic Development Zone; $60,000 for minority and women-owned businesses; $20,000 for businesses willing to locate in tourist areas, with another $80,000 available from previous years' funding.

Public improvement funds in the proposed budget include:

$200,000 for sidewalk repairs and $100,000 for street paving in CDBG targeted areas of the city.

$150,000 for unspecified uses and $10,000 for beautification in the North Main Street area.

$300,000 for brownfield cleanup, $100,000 for street and other improvements and $20,000 for beautification and cleanup in the Highland Avenue area.

$75,000 for the renovation of two remaining stalls at the City Market, along with $225,000 in funding from previous years; $70,000 for street improvements; and $20,000 for materials for Gateway Arches at 13th Street.

$50,000 for 50 trash receptacles to be divided between Main Street, Pine Avenue and Niagara Street.

$10,000 for Niagara Street beautification.

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