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AGENCIES FEEL SHORTCHANGED IN FUNDING PLAN

Self-interest took center stage Thursday as most speakers at a hearing on the city's proposed 2001 budgets for Community Development Block Grants said that they wanted to see more in their own agency's pockets.

About a dozen people representing as many groups addressed the City Hall session to say their proposed budgets didn't cut the mustard.

"We've always had a problem with monies taken away from us, taken and given to other areas," said the Rev. Hubert Grooms Jr., chairman of the Niagara Falls Faith Based Collaborative.

Although his organization asked for more than it expected to be allotted from the city's anticipated $3.3 million in federal Community Development Block Grants, the organization had expected to receive more than $175,000, Grooms said.

"The city has to get behind us and do the right thing," said Grooms, who later added, "We don't need to put a Band-Aid on a . . . chest wound."

Samuel P. Granieri, executive director for the Pine Avenue Business Association, said that he was happy with the funding proposal to help finish the reconstruction of the City Market and for Little Italy.

However, he added, he was disappointed that a request for additional funding for crime fighting in the area was not addressed.

An officer of the Memorial Park Block Club also said that he was not happy with his agency's proposed allotment. "We feel like we've been neglected so many times," said Ray H. Kelly. "We continually seem to be getting ignored."

Kelly said that the city needs money to rehabilitate the 10th Street Park and the 13th Street Gym. In addition, "Niagara Street is only paved halfway from Quay Street to Portage Road." He said that he also would like to get some homes that are falling apart in the area of Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center refurbished.

The executive director of the Niagara Falls Chapter of the American Red Cross said that the agency was snubbed to the tune of $100,000. James A. Snell said that the current facility at 719 Ashland Ave. is not accessible to disabled people and that the building needs major rehabilitation.

He also said that the Red Cross chapter was promised that it would receive $100,000 a year for three years. The local Red Cross has raised $300,000 on its own for the rehabilitation project, Snell said.

However, Robert J. Antonucci, community development project manager, said, "There are no guarantees for anybody any year."

He later said, "We thought we prepared a fair and equitable budget for all the residents in the City of Niagara Falls."

Lawrence F. Grace, executive director of Odollam, an agency that provides housing and other services for mentally ill people, said the $23,000 that was proposed under the Emergency Shelter Grant Program was not enough.

"We need to move in a direction of providing more permanent housing for them," Grace said of his clients. He added that the county needed to provide more stable residences and services.

Husnara T. Sundram, the executive director of Fellowship House, also said that she was displeased with her agency's allotment of $23,000. She said that she helps with a halfway house for recovering alcoholics, an administration office and 10 apartment buildings.

She argued that $23,000 was not enough to provide services. "We have a hard time in keeping staff," because those members are paid with a portion of the clients' incomes. "Eighty-one percent of the people who have completed the program are clean, sober and working."

Antonucci said that residents still have until Oct. 20 to send their written comments to the Department of Community Development, 1022 Main St., P.O. Box 69, Niagara Falls, N.Y. 14302.

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.

Once the 30-day public comment period is up, the budget will be sent to the Council for its approval on Oct. 23. The Council may act on it at a Nov. 6 meeting if necessary.

The city must then submit the plan to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which will review it from Nov. 16 to Dec. 31. The fiscal year for Community Development funding begins Jan. 1.

Copies of the 2001 Consolidated Plan and Strategy are available for public review in the Department of Community Development, 1022 Main St.; the Earl W. Brydges Public Library, 1425 Main St.; and in the LaSalle Public Library, 8727 Buffalo Ave.

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