Thursday, April 11, 2013

The ins and outs of CDBG funding (plus lunch)

Chariton is among the finalists for this year's round of Iowa CDBG facade improvement funding, which is why several of us were in Ames Wednesday for a day-long grant administrator and recipient training workshop. The event was sponsored by the Iowa Economic Development Authority, which administers the state's Community Development Block Grant programs.

If our application is successful --- and we should receive final word on that very soon --- Chariton (and up to 13 other smaller Iowa cities) would receive $500,000 in CDBG funds that when paired with owner and other local matches would be used to restore the facades of commercial buildings in the Main Street district.

Our representatives, still smiling at the end of a long day, included (from left) Linda Allen, grant administrator; Kris Patrick, Chariton Area Chamber/Main Street's Main Street coordinator; Mayor Roger Manser; Shantel Dow, Chamber/Main Street executive director; and Corey Goodenow, city manager. Me, too, but the advantage of carrying the camera is that you can avoid being photographed.

Lunch was great (we were meeting at the Gatway Hotel and Convention Center) and the meeting, well, informative --- and that's a good thing. Even though the session we were most interested in was at the end of the day, when most of us were itching to hit the road home.

But it's useful to hear about shifts in CDBG strategy, especially as funding from federal sources declines. Iowa uses CDBG funding for projects ranging from sewer and water system improvements through housing to smaller programs, like facade improvement (downtown revitalizaiton).

A new emphasis in 2013 contracts, we learned, will be timeliness. Contracts generally will be issued for three-year terms with a firmer insistence that projects be completed and funds expended in that time frame. Earlier contracts were sometimes issued for shorter periods with the almost casual assurance that they would be extended if needed.

We also had a chance to visit with Ann Schmid, IEDA's new historic preservation specialist. One of her principal tasks is to screen applications headed to the Iowa State Historic Preservation Office for approval and make sure everything is in order. Hopefully, that will prevent some of the delays that occur when an incomplete application reaches SHIPO, then is returned for clarification.

This is important in Chariton right now because a SHIPO sign-off is one of the last steps required before construction on three upper-level-housing projects can begin on the square. Our applications now are in her hands, headed for SHIPO.

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